Lent 2007: March 2012 Archives

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Genesis 17: 3-9
Psalm 104: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (R. 8a)
John 8: 51-59

Christ our Priest

On this Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent, the last Thursday before Holy Week, the Roman Missal gives an Entrance Antiphon drawn not from the Psalms, but from the Letter to the Hebrews. “Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant, that by means of His death, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15). The mediatorship of Christ, our High Priest fills us with hope: “A fuller hope has been brought into our lives, enabling us to come close to God” (Heb 7:19).

Through Christ and in Christ

The Roman Gradual gives an Introit from the Book of the Prophet Daniel: “Every thing that Thou hast done to us, Thou hast done in true judgment, for we have sinned against Thee, and we have not hearkened to Thy commandments, but give glory to Thy name, O Lord, and deal with us according to the multitude of Thy mercies” (Dan 3: 31, 29, 30, 43, 42). Here again, the mediatorship of Christ is evoked, albeit implicitly: it is through Christ that the name of the Father is glorified, and it is in Christ that the Father deals with us according to multitude of His mercies.

The Father Sees Us Through the Wounds of Christ

Covenant means coming together. Christ, our Priest and Head, offering His Precious Blood on our behalf, “enables us to come close to God” (Heb 7:1919), by bringing us with Him into the presence of the Father. “The sanctuary into which Jesus has entered is not one made by human hands, is not some adumbration of the truth; he has entered heaven itself, where he now appears in God’s sight on our behalf” (Heb 9:24). The Father looks at our faces through the Face of His Beloved Son. The Father looks at our hands, defiled by sin, through His pierced Hands. The Father looks into our hearts, impure and divided, through the Heart of Jesus, opened by the soldier’s lance.

The Blood of Christ

“Shall not the blood of Christ, who offered himself, through the Holy Spirit, as a victim unblemished in God’s sight, purify our consciences, and set them free from lifeless observances, to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:14). The Father, seeing us sprinkled with the Precious Blood of the Lamb, accepts us and, through His Son, draws us to Himself. “But now, you are in Christ Jesus; now, through the Blood of Christ, you have been brought close, you who were once, so far away” (Eph 2:13). This is the meaning of the New Covenant: in the Blood Christ God has come out to us; and we, in the Blood of Christ, have gone out to God. No longer can the Father look upon His Son without seeing us, the members of His Mystical Body. No longer can He look at us without seeing the Bride “clothed in readiness for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb” (Ap 19:7), the Church “for whom Christ gave Himself up, that he might sanctify her” (Eph 5:25-26). The Blood of Christ authorizes us to pray with boldness. Lips sanctified by the Blood of Christ can dare to say, “Abba, Father!”


I preached this homily in 2007. It makes reference, therefore, to the reformed lectionary. I offer it today for the readers of Vultus Christi who may be hearing these same texts today.

Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent

Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25, 28
Daniel 3: 29-30, 31, 33, 32, 34 (R. 29b)
John 8:31-42


Freedom is one of those words that, as soon as it is pronounced, seems to elevate one's blood pressure. Folks become passionately defensive about their freedom. The question is, "What do we mean by freedom?" In contemporary culture, tragically, the word has been paired with two other words: "to choose." The freedom to choose. Far from referring to the noble freedom of the God's adopted children, delivered out of slavery, to receive the Word of God and, in its light, choose the things that are pleasing to Him, it has come to refer, among other things, to what the proponents of abortion call, "a woman's freedom to choose.'


The freedom to choose has become a slogan in some circles. It becomes the justification for every manner of self-indulgence, idiosyncracy, sin, perversion, and cruelty. The "free to choose" mentality of the world has infiltrated even the minds of some Catholics. It has spawned the exaggerated cult of options, liturgical and otherwise. There are those who choose from among the teachings of Church, carefully avoiding whatever challenges their sin and unsettles their moral constructs. The criteria are purely subjective: "I will choose what works for me and, if it doesn't work for me, I need not choose it."


The Greek word for heretic derives from airesis, meaning choice. Heretics were simply the choosers, those who instead of accepting the faith of the Church in its integrity, chose what pleased them and rejected what displeased them. There is in each of us one who wants always to choose. To choose by one's own lights, or even worse, by one's own tastes, preferences, and needs, is to court spiritual disaster.

In the Light of God

In today's Collect we beg God to enlighten our hearts. The light for which we pray is the splendour of truth. For one who lives in the light of God, every other "light" is darkness.

Merciful God, enlighten the hearts of Thy children,
hallowed by penitence,
and in Thy lovingkindness,
graciously give ear to the suppliant people
upon whom Thou bestowest the spirit of devotion.


Attachment to one's own "lights" and choices is the earmark of pride. One becomes one's own reference. One stands outside the community of Tradition. One trusts one's own insights and cultivates a systematic suspicion of anything handed on. The person who chooses one thing necessarily rejects a multitude of others. The Evil One is perniciously clever when it comes to twisting good things to his own ends. If you have any doubt about that, re-read C.S. Lewis's, The Screwtape Letters, a book that, belying its amusing literary style, is deadly serious.

The Truth

Today Our Lord tells us what freedom is; He tells us how we can be set free. "If you continue faithful to my word, you are my disciples in earnest; so you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:31-32). To continue faithful to the Word of Christ is to receive it from the Church as she dispenses it in the Sacred Liturgy day by day. It is to hear it proclaimed in the assembly of the faithful, the Communion of the Saints. It is to receive it from the lips of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and, in our own day, from the lips of the Pope and the bishops teaching in communion with him.


To continue faithful to the Word of Christ is to believe it, staking our lives on what we have heard. It is to repeat what we have heard, holding it, and turning it over ceaselessly in our hearts. It is the Word at work in us that makes us disciples in earnest. Only in a relationship of discipleship -- that is by the free acceptance of the discipline -- the gentle yoke -- of Christ -- can we come to know the truth. It is that truth, acquired not cheaply, but dearly and at a personal cost, that in the end sets us free.

The Hermeneutic of Discontinuity

In his momentous address of December 22, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI warned us of the danger of passing the truth through the filter of what he called "a certain hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture." The Holy Father reviewed the more than forty years gone by since the close of the Second Vatican Council and observed that alongside of its good fruits, there has been no small measure of confusion and discord, inadequacies and mistakes. I give you his own words:

The problems [in the implementation of the Council] arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.
On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

Rootedness in Sacred Tradition

The freedom for which we were created, the freedom we all seek, comes not from any rupture with Tradition, but rather from a rootedness in its incomparably rich humus. Rootedness is very close to humility. The humble person, the humble community has roots going deep into the soil of Tradition. Therefore the humble person, the humble community will bear abundant fruits of holiness.


These days of Passiontide invite us to zeal for the sacred liturgy and generosity in prayer. The fruits of Passiontide are abandonment to the will of God in every infirmity, darkness, and contradiction, simplicity, joy, and a burning love for Jesus in the mysteries of His suffering and death. If you would know freedom, look with love and compunction at Jesus bound to the column and nailed to the wood of the Cross. In Him, we have "salvation, life and resurrection: through Him are we saved and set free" (cf. Gal 6:14).

The Two Annunciations

| | Comments (0)

The Annunciation of the Lord is being celebrated today on the Monday of Passion Week; Friday will be the Commemoration of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows. The juxtaposition of the two feasts -- and of the two mysteries -- is extraordinarily rich. In 2005, when Good Friday fell on March 25th, I reflected with the Poor Clares in Barhamsville, Virginia on the intersection of these same two mysteries. Here is the homily I preached:


“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
'For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?’” (Rom 11:33-34).
“None of the rulers of this age understood this;
for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8).

We find ourselves today at the intersection of two mysteries,
or rather, at the heart of the One Mystery,
indivisible, and yet too rich to be taken in all at once:
Incarnation and Redemption,
Annunciation and Crucifixion,
Conception and Death.

The Western tradition, seeking clarity in distinctions
and respectful of chronos, the ordered time of the universe,
separates, fixing her gaze today on the wood of the Cross,
and promising to return in ten days time
“to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph
of the house of David” (Lk 1:26-27).

The Eastern tradition, spiraling into kairos,
the ever-present immediacy of the God who is, who was, and is to come,
integrates, even liturgically,
the mysteries of the conceiving Virgin
and of the crucified Fruit of her womb.

One might argue as convincingly from one perspective as from the other,
but we are here not to debate but to contemplate.
The mute prostration at the beginning of this solemn liturgy,
-- all of humanity flung down before the face of God in the person of the priest --
was an act of utter and unconditional surrender to the Mystery,
not to the Mystery as we see it,
poor myopic creatures, straining to transcend our limited perceptions,
but to the Mystery as it is
in its cruciform “breadth and length and height and depth” (cf. Eph 3:18),
and in “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:19).

This is the crucifying and glorious knowledge
of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8)
by which one is “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).
This is the awareness that, like a sword, pierced the heart of the Virgin Mother,
“standing by the cross of Jesus” (Jn 19:25).
Even she watched him in the painful spasms of death,
she remembered his first stirrings in her womb,
and somehow sensed obscurely,
“as in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12),
that he would stir again beneath the shroud.
But for now, she saw the fruit of her womb
become the fruit of the tree

Thirty-three years had passed;
it seemed to her like yesterday.
“Sent by God” (Lk 1:26), that bright, majestic, creature had come to her,
--exquisitely courteous he was, and awful and lovely all at once --
and his greeting still astonished her:
“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you:
blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:28).
She remembered the shock of it,
and how she had “considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29).
Now his voice came to her again, and how she needed to hear it,
to lean on it, to steady herself against it, to cling to it
even as Abraham, “in hope believing against hope” (Rom 4:18),
had clung to the wild promises made by God to him:
“Fear not, Mary, for you have found grace with God” (Lk 1:30).


To see what she was seeing --
her Child stretched naked on the wood,
his hands and feet pierced,
his whole body bloodied,
his sweet face beneath a cruel crown of thorns --
to see this and yet believe in the word of the Angel
was to feel the two-edged sword’s sharp blade
“piercing to the division of soul and spirit,
of joints and marrow” (Heb 4:12).
Could this be what Simeon meant:
“And your own soul a sword shall pierce” (Lk 2:35)?

The Angel had said more:
“And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb,
and shall bring forth a son;
and you shall call his name Jesus” (Lk 1:31).
This too she remembered, and lifting her eyes, she read “the inscription over him
in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew” (Lk 23:38):
“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Jn 19:19).
For a moment she thought of her Joseph
she still missed him so -- her friend, her comforter, her rock --
and she remembered what the Angel had said to him as well:
“You shall call his name Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21).

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High;
and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father;
and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever.
And of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Lk 1:32-33).
Tell me, O Gabriel, is this bitter abjection his greatness?
Is this cross of execution his throne?
Is this defeat the inauguration of his kingdom?

Just then the thief crucified beside him spoke,
as if in answer to her torment:
“'Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
And Jesus said to him: 'Amen I say to you,
this day you shall be with me in paradise’” (Lk 23:42-43).
For an instant, she turned from the face of her Jesus
to the face of the thief,
and she felt herself a mother to him.
“For those whom God foreknew
he also predestined to be conformed to the image of her Son,
in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (cf, Rom 8:29).

With that, her Jesus spoke,
his gentleness like the breeze in the cool of the day,
his authority undiminished by the scourging, the mockery, and the taunts.
Seeing “his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near,
he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold your son!’
Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!’” (Jn 19:25).

This was a new Annunciation, the second one:
the first, thirty-three years ago by the mouth of the Angel Gabriel;
this second one by the mouth of her Son,
lifted up with bloodied arms spread wide in place of shining wings.
Then, as now and forever, “no word shall be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).

“Woman, behold your son!” (Jn 19:25).
To this Mary had no answer
apart from the one she had given the Angel then:
“Behold, the handmaid of the Lord;
be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
She was to be mother, mother again and again.
Mother to John, to Dismas, to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, and to James,
mother to “the coming generation” and to “a people yet unborn” (Ps 21:30-31).
Mother of the Church.

“Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished,
that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: 'I thirst’” (Jn 19:28)
and she knew in herself the torment that is the thirst of God
and tasted in her mouth the bitter vinegar,
and knew too that this new motherhood was given her
in this new annunciation
to quench the thirst of God with the children of her sorrowful heart:
adorers “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23).

And as she recalled how at Nazareth the Holy Spirit had come upon her
and the power of Most High had overshadowed her (cf. Lk 1:35),
he said, “'It is consummated,’ and bowing his head,
he gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30).
She lifted her face to receive the breath of his mouth,
and remembered that the Angel too,
having accomplished that for which he was sent from God left her,
leaving God in her womb.
“And the angel departed from her” (Lk 1:38).

Afterwards they took his body down from the cross.
Strange that another Joseph should be there helping.
A strong and tender man.
And she remembered her Joseph, also strong and tender,
lifting that tiny newborn body in his calloused hands
to place it in the manger.
And she wept.

They placed his lifeless body in her arms.
He seemed so tired, so spent, so in need of his Sabbath rest.
Bits of a lullaby she used to sing to him went through her mind.
“Sleep, my Yeshua, sleep.
Sleep my Yeshua, sleep until you wake.”
She remembered something he had said:
“I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3).
And she repeated something he had prayed:
“Father, glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (Jn 17:1),

They placed him the tomb.
And the stone was rolled across the entrance,
sealing in her heart with his body.

To John she said:
“Come, son, take me home.
'He has torn, that he may heal us;
he has stricken, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
and on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him’ (Hos 6:1-2).”
And John, saying nothing, looked into her eyes,
just as Jesus had earlier in the day,
and like Jesus, he believed her.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory