Spes Mea

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Monday of Holy Week

Isaiah 42:1-7
Psalm 26:1, 2, 3, 13-14 (R. v. 1a)

But After I Shall Be Risen

The bright eighth mode intervals of last evening’s Magnificat Antiphon still echo in our hearts: “It is therefore written: I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed; but after I shall be risen, I will go before you into Galilee. There you shall see me, says Lord.” Over the words, postquam autem resurrexero — “but after I shall be risen” the melody leaped upward in an uncontainable burst of paschal triumph, ringing out an irrepressible joy.

You Shall See Me

Yesterday, we were in Jerusalem, the holy city of the sufferings of Christ, but the Magnificat Antiphon at Second Vespers already promised us a reunion with the risen Lord in Galilee. “There you shall see me.” Through the text and melody of the antiphon one hears that other promise of the Lord in Saint John’s gospel: “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22).

Says the Lord

The cadence over the words, dicit Dominus — “says the Lord,” is strong and full of hope, leaving us utterly certain of the outcome of this Great Week’s bitter agony and sufferings. “This is our comfort,” writes Dame Aemiliana, “we shall see Him again. First Judea and Jerusalem, judgment, death, the tomb. Then Galilee, life and sight. . . . Life hangs on the issue of death; whoever goes with the Lord to die, goes with Him to live and rule; whoever dares to go the way to Jerusalem will not miss the way to Galilee.”

The Prince of Life

It is necessary that we hold fast to the promise given us last evening: “There you shall see me, says the Lord.” This is necessary not only in the sacred drama of the liturgy but in all of life’s struggles to the death: the struggles with weakness, temptation, and sin; the struggles against fear, and selfishness, and despair. It is in our lives that “Death and Life contend in the combat stupendous”; it is in our lives that “the Prince of Life, Who died, reigns alive” (Sequence, Victimae paschali laudes). “For we are not contending against flesh and blood,” says Saint Paul, “but against the principalities, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). The struggle against the powers of darkness is present, not only in the lives of individual Christians, but also in the secular culture.

The Prayer of the Suffering Christ

Our own experience of struggle and of wrestling with evil allows us to enter into the prayer of Christ given us in the Propers of today’s Mass, not as spectators looking on from the sidelines, but as participants. Today’s Introit is taken from Psalm 34, a passionate appeal for vindication. “Judge, O Lord, those that wrong me, fight against those that fight against me: take hold of arms and shield, and arise to help me, O Lord, the strength of my salvation” (Ps 34:1-2). This is the prayer of the suffering Christ to the Father; because it is His prayer, it is ours. “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him Who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear” (Heb 5:7). It is precisely this prayer of Christ, His costly, agonizing prayer “out of the depths” (Ps 129:1), that is given us in the psalms.

Communion With the Passion of Christ

By giving us the prayer of the suffering Christ in the psalms, the Church offers us a holy communion with Him. The substance of the prayer of Christ is given us under the humble species of human language in the words of the psalms. The psalms of the suffering Christ are for us a holy communion with His passion, a way of entering deeply into the sentiments and sorrows of His heart, a way of allowing ourselves to be inhabited by the power of His prayer to the Father.

Turn Not Your Face From Me

The Missal gives a Communion Antiphon from Psalm 101. It is Christ Who lifts His voice to the Father, saying, “Turn not your face from me in the day of my distress. Turn your ear towards me and in the day when I cry out to you, answer me quickly” (Ps 101:3). This is the prayer of Christ the Head; it is also the prayer of every suffering and tempted member of His Mystical Body, the prayer of every soul crushed beneath the weight of evil, wrestling with the enemies of God, and fearful of her own weakness.

Prayer of the Head and of the Body

The Graduale gives another Communion Antiphon taken, like the Introit, from Psalm 34: “Let them be shamed and brought to disgrace those who rejoice at my misfortune: let them be put to shame and fear, those who speak wicked things against me” (Ps 34:26). This is the prayer of a man brought low, of a man caught in the grip of a mortal terror; it is the prayer of the suffering Christ — of the whole suffering Christ. Paul entered into this prayer: “We do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself” (2 Cor 1:7). The Head Who suffered once, suffers still in His members. The prayer made once by the Head becomes each day the prayer of the members “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested” (2 Cor 4:8-11).

The Indwelling Prayer of Christ

The sacrament of the Word gives us the prayer of Christ. We, by ingesting the words of the psalms, allow Christ’s prayer to indwell us as it indwells the whole Church who breathes it forth again and again in the power of the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood gives us the whole mystery of Christ’s blessed Passion and glorious Resurrection; it gives us Christ himself. He comes to live out His once-and-for-all Mystery again and again in us, uniting us in one Spirit to himself. Let us receive both Word and Sacrament today confident of the glorious outcome of every bitter struggle with sin and death. We shall see Him again in Galilee, even as He promised.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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