Passion of Christ: March 2009 Archives

Vexilla Regis

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Croce processionale Gian Francesco dalle Croci.jpg

The Royal Banner forward goes,
The mystic Cross refulgent glows:
Where He, in Flesh, flesh who made,
Upon the Tree of pain is laid.

Behold! The nails with anguish fierce,
His outstretched arms and vitals pierce:
Here our redemption to obtain,
The Mighty Sacrifice is slain.

Here the fell spear his wounded side
With ruthless onset opened wide:
To wash us in that cleansing flood,
Thence mingled Water flowed, and Blood.

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song, of old:
Unto the nations, lo! saith he,
Our God hath reignèd from the Tree.

O Tree! In radiant beauty bright!
With regal purple meetly dight!
Thou chosen stem! divinely graced,
Which hath those Holy Limbs embraced!

How blest thine arms, beyond compare,
Which Earth's Eternal Ransom bare!
That Balance where His Body laid,
The spoil of vanquished Hell outweighed.

O Cross! all hail! sole hope, abide
With us now in this Passion-tide:
New grace in pious hearts implant,
And pardon to the guilty grant!

Hail wondrous Altar! Victim hail!
Thy Glorious Passion shall avail!
Where death Life's very Self endured,
Yet life by that same Death secured.

Thee, mighty Trinity! One God!
Let every living creature laud;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost deliver,
O guide and govern now and ever!

The hymn Vexilla Regis was composed by Saint Venantius Fortunatus on the occasion of the solemn reception of a Relic of the True Cross by Queen Saint Radegonde before the consecration of her monastic church at Poitiers. It is, by origin, a processional hymn. The Church sings it at Vespers from the Saturday Within the Fourth Week of Lent until the Wednesday of Holy Week. The translation given here is taken from "The Psalter of Sarum": London 1852. The feast of Saint Radegonde is August 13th; that of Saint Venantius Fortunatus is December 14th.

This devotion is the one that is most closely linked to the Eucharistic Sacrifice; like the Mass, it continues to recall to us the death of Jesus: "Mortem Domini annuntiabitis donec veniat -- You proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes" (1 Cor 11:26). Abbot Marmion on the Way of the Cross

If you have not yet purchased your copy of Blessed Columba Marmion's classic work, Christ in His Mysteries, visit Zacchaeus Press and do it now! Passiontide begins in less than two weeks, and you will want to read and meditate what are, to my mind, some of the most beautiful pages ever written on the Way of the Cross. In Christ in His Mysteries, Blessed Marmion offers a meditation and prayer for each of the stations of the Way of the Cross.

Dom Marmion's own devotion to the Stations of the Cross goes back to his seminary days at Holy Cross College in Ireland. There, the young Joe Marmion fell under the beneficent influence of the saintly Father John Gowan, a Lazarist. Faithful to Father Gowan's suggestion, Marmion never omitted his daily Way of the Cross.

During the last years of his life, Blessed Marmion made the practice of the Way of the Cross the object of a vow. Even on his deathbed, Dom Marmion endeavoured to make the Stations of the Cross to unite his last sufferings to those that marked the final hours of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning the Way of the Cross, Blessed Marmion wrote:

After the Sacraments and liturgical worship I am convinced there is no practice more fruitful for our souls than the Way of the Cross made with devotion. Its supernatural efficacy is sovereign. The Passion is the "holy of holies" among the mysteries of Jesus, te pre-eminent work of our Supreme High Priest; it is there above all that His virtues shine forth, and when we contemplate Him in His sufferings He gives us according to the measure of our faith, the grace to practise the virtues that He manifested during these holy hours.
At each station Our Divine Saviour presents Himself to us in this triple character: as the Mediator Who saves us by His merits, the perfect Model of sublime virtues, and the efficacious Cause Who can, through His Divine Omnipotence, produce in our souls the virtues of which He gives us the example.

A few months before his death, Blessed Marmion wrote:

When I have worries, when things go wrong with me, when I endure aridity and dryness, it is enough for me to meditate on the Passion of Jesus in making the Way of the Cross in order to feel strengthened; it is like a bath in which my soul is plunged; it never comes away without its vigour and joy being renewed; it acts upon my soul like a sacrament.


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Wednesday Within the Second Week of Lent

Jeremiah 18: 18-20
Matthew 20: 17-28

Beata Passio

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.

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