Wednesday Within the Second Week of Lent
Jeremiah 18: 18-20
Matthew 20: 17-28
On Sunday last we celebrated the Transfiguration of the Lord. Today, three days later, the liturgy sets before us the mystery of His beata Passio, as the Roman Canon calls it, His blessed Passion. The Passion of Our Lord is as blessed as it was bitter; its bitterness contains the source of all blessedness, that is, of all our bliss, of eternal beatitude.
The Prayer of Jeremiah
The prophet Jeremiah threatened, hated, and rejected by his enemies, is a figure of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The First Reading gives us Jeremiah’s prayer in great anguish:
Give heed to me, O Lord,
and listen to my plea . . .
Remember how I stood before Thee to speak good for them,
to turn away Thy wrath from them.
The Prayer of Jesus
Jeremiah’s prayer announces the prayer of Jesus in His Passion. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that, “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). From the Cross, Jesus interceded for those who hated Him, and for those who nailed Him to the awful Tree: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Down through the ages, the Holy Spirit has moved the Church to enter into the prayer of Christ: to pray as He prayed.
The Prayer of Mary
So deeply did today’s text from Jeremiah penetrate the heart of the Church that it became the Offertory Antiphon of the Mass of September 15th, the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Recordare, Virgo Mater Dei . . .
Be mindful, O Virgin Mother of God,
when thou standest in the sight of the Lord,
to speak good things for us,
and to turn away His anger from us.
The Church recognizes in the Mother of Sorrows the New Eve, the Woman in whom the whole mystery of the Church is contained and revealed. The prayer of Christ becomes her prayer. Mary, the spotless image of the Church, stands with her Son in ceaseless intercession, “since He always lives to make intercession for those who draw near to God through Him” (cf. Heb 7:25). The prayer of Mary passes entirely into the prayer of Jesus, and His prayer passes entirely into hers.
A Gospel in Three Acts
The Gospel contains three acts: first, the prophecy of the Passion and Resurrection; second, the request made by the mother of James and John, and Jesus’ mysterious reply to her; third, Jesus’ teaching on humility or, if you will, on the slavery assumed out of love. The Church privileges the first act in today’s Gospel. How do we know that? By consulting the traditional Benedictus and Magnificat Antiphons for Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent. All throughout the Lenten liturgy these daily antiphons serve as mystagogical keys to the liturgy of each day. They are the Church’s way of taking to heart the core of the Gospel proclaimed at Holy Mass.
Focus on the Passion
And so, this morning at Lauds she sang: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem: and the Son of God shall be betrayed and crucified.” And at Vespers she will sing: “For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him.”
The message is clear. The Church would have us focus on the bitter and blessed Passion of the Lord. She would have us keep His sufferings before our eyes. The obvious way of prolonging today’s liturgy would be by making the Way of the Cross. One might also want to say with Saint Mecthilde:
O passio magna!
O profunda vulnera!
O sanguinis effusio!
O dulcis dulcedo!
O mortis amaritudo!
Da nobis vitam aeternam.
O great Passion,
O deep wounds,
O outpouring of Blood,
O ineffable sweetness,
O death suffered in every bitterness,
give us life!