Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell

IN REFLECTING UPON where did Jesus go?and what did Jesus do on Holy Saturday? as his body lay in the tomb, there is apparently some movement among Evangelicals to have the line, "He descended into hell," removed from the Apostles Creed. Those who are proponents of the elimination claim that the idea does not reflect a biblical view and that it is a mistake - "An old mistake is still a mistake," they say.

Avoiding theological contention we might consider this painting here by Pieter Huys a 16th century Flemish artist. I've tried to maximize the image so we can look carefully - we might even use a magnifying glass to get a fuller idea. We can only use pictures to search the meaning of the creedal line: He descended into hell. Hell is a spiritual realm - though the artist has given it a physical expression. 

"Hell" is the deepest place of our loss. It is the place of our deepest death, chaos, ugliness, misery, flame, horror, inflicted pain and hate. Anyone can fall into this condition as we notice that there are clergy in the midst of the horrific scene. Nothing and no one is beyond the reach of the Easter Christ. Alleluia!

Into all of this insanity, Christ suddenly has appeared in light. He is not there to punish violently or obliterate but to reclaim, restore, renew and enliven. I knew a young man whose life was ruined by drugs, rebellion, selfishness, idolatry, waste and hatred. Tapping his head he said, "Father, this is my neighborhood, and it's a dangerous neighborhood to go into." So he would understand this image - as would anyone who reflects upon his or her own personal life - a time from our youth perhaps, a time of regrets, a time when we were lost to the things born from above. A time we might call hell. Bring all of this to Easter.

But there is more. Here is an image quite different. Jesus has gone down to the depth of our death and hell, but this time everyone seems to be waiting for him - anticipating and expecting him with wide-eyed joy and gratitude. Who is there? The prophets and kings of Israel, the three magi of Bethlehem, holy Simeon and Ana, John the Baptist, Saint Joseph, all those who awaited the Messiah.

Look at Jesus in his great and gentle courtesy. It seems that he will greet each  individually. Perhaps as Jesus bends low to peer through the door to death, the crowd sings, like children in chorus, "You have found us." Of course Adam and Eve are there, but probably last as they are the parents of us all. 

Christ's greeting might have been like the scene in many churches on Holy Saturday night: the great candle symbolizing his resurrection entered the church and one by one we took the flame to ourselves until darkness and all that is symbolized by it, was pushed away. In some places then, after the taking of the Christ-light there is a procession around the outside of the church, circling three times. But the ultimate procession we make carrying the Resurrection-Light is not made while going in circles but outwardly and beyond - to heaven.

Here is an Eastern Christian hymn where the underworld of death, Hades or hell is personified with a voice, lamenting the mistake of welcoming Christ, who turns out to be the Spoiler. It's quite powerful.

Today Hades tearfully sighs - "Would that I had not received him who was born of Mary, for he came to me and destroyed my power, he broke my bronze gates, and being God, delivered the souls I had been holding captive," O Lord, glory to your cross and to your holy Resurrection.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Intercessions

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to revitalize the Church, where it is corrupted,/ dormant,/ tired or suffering,/ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to root out of our country the tendency to solve problems with death/ and to make us agents of life in this world./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to unify and revitalize our families:/ strengthening us in faith and prayer,/ healing us of addictions,/ anger and disbelief./ We ask blessings as well for those who only worship on this day./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to bless all those who are away from home/ mindful of soldiers and sailors around the world/ and all who are eager to return to loved ones./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to bless with gifts of peace and reconciliation,/ all who pray in Jerusalem today./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to give healing,/ comfort and friendship/ to those who are sick,/ lonely,/ disabled,/ fearful/ and those with special needs./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to take to himself all who have died since last Easter,/ and to console with the promise of eternal life/ those who are in mourning./ We pray to the Lord.

Jesus is Buried ~ The Fourteenth Station

Archbishop Romero 

Jesus' terrible execution is over now. A few friends stay behind to prepare and place his body in a grave that is not his own. Then since the Sabbath is beginning, and the sun is getting low in the sky, these loyal ones depart quickly. It is a sad scene that Jesus, who took so much time with people, should be buried hurriedly. 

We might say, "Finally, there is peace," as the great stone is rolled in front of the tomb and there's quiet. But Oscar Romero, the murdered archbishop of El Salvador (March 24, 1980), wrote during the time of great national anguish and death: "Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the result of violent oppression...Peace is generosity, which is a right and a duty."

Jesus has been so generous with us, with me! How can I begin to respond to his gift in some new way? What can I do?

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Intercessions ~ Holy Thursday

On Holy Thursday night we pray for the renewal of the Church throughout the world. / We pray especially for the Church where it is very poor,/ too comfortable, forgetful or lukewarm in response to Her Lord./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the renewal of the priesthood./ We pray for the priests who have cared for our families over the years./ We pray for priests who are tired,/ sick,/ newly ordained,/ elderly,/ addicted or troubled./ We pray to the Lord.

Tonight we pray for the children throughout the world who are preparing for the reception of their First Holy Communion soon after Easter./ We pray for hearts that are fervent for Jesus/ and for parents who will model for them a deep response to God in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

The Eucharist is food/ and so we pray for those who have no food/ or only inadequate food./ We ask for grateful hearts that take nothing for granted,/ and that we would be generous in sharing with others./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who are sick,/ calling to mind family,/ friends and neighbors who are struggling with illness or aging./ We pray for those who are fearful or alone and for their comforting./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for those who have fallen asleep in Christ and for all of the departed/ that with the saints they may enjoy the place of refreshment,/ light and peace./ We pray to the Lord.