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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Sunday, 17 April 2011

PALM SUNDAY 2011 (Homily by Abbot Paul Stonham OSB of Belmont Abbey, Herefors, UK


Every year we are struck by the stark contrast between the joyful blessing of palms with its procession and the somewhat bleak celebration of the Passion that follows. The spring blossom and blue skies of the abbey gardens are exchanged for the sombre interior of the abbey church.



            This year we have heard the Passion according to St. Matthew that presents us with a profound meditation on the first Holy Week, full of interesting variations and insights compared to the other Gospels. The king of the Jews, a title we first meet in the infancy narrative, is betrayed by the kiss of a disciple using the forbidden name, Rabbi, who is then tried by both Jews and Romans and condemned to death by crucifixion.

            There are many interesting details in Matthew’s account of the Passion, each line of which seems to echo with the words of the Old Testament. Judas does not want to be responsible for innocent blood, so he gives back the thirty pieces of silver and hangs himself. Nor do the chief priests, so they buy the Potter’s Field with the money, laundered money, and make a sound investment. Pilate’s wife, who remains nameless, receives a revelation in a dream that Jesus is a just man whereas her husband washes his hands because he is a scared man. The Jews adopt the legal formula “his blood be on us and on our children” to take responsibility for the death of one they consider to be a criminal. How could they know that Jesus was innocent? Matthew sees judgement and punishment in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.

            It was Matthew who emphasised the importance of the star of Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus being marked by a sign in the heavens. Now the death of Jesus is marked by signs on the earth and under the earth, for not only is the veil of the sanctuary rent from top to bottom, but the earth is shaken, the rocks are rent (just like the Skirrid on the road to Abergavenny), the tombs are opened and many bodies of holy men and women raised, who enter the holy city after Jesus’ resurrection.

            The death of Jesus brings not only judgement on the Temple but also results in the resurrection of the saints of Israel. Human relationships with God have been changed for ever and the whole of creation transformed for “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.”

            A few points, then, for us to think about and pray over this Holy Week. How often have I, like Judas, betrayed Jesus while still calling him Lord and Teacher? How often have I, like Pilate, washed my hands in fained innocence, while remaining complacent, indifferent and guilty? How often have I, like the chief priests, condemned the innocent to death, at least in my thoughts and in my words? Would I rather secure the sepulchre to prevent the good news spreading abroad that Christ is risen from the dead? What effect will this Holy Week and Easter have on my life? Am I really prepared to cope with an earthquake in my life this Easter?

Palm Sunday 2006


"I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout the whole world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will also be told, in remembrance of her." With these words Jesus silences the critics of the unnamed woman who at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper anointed him in preparation for his death and burial with an alabaster jar full of very costly ointment, pure nard. "She has anointed my body beforehand for its burial."


You will notice that the burial of Jesus at the very end of St Mark's Passion narrative is so hurried that there was no time to anoint the body. Joseph of Arimathaea simply wrapped it in a shroud and laid it to rest "in a tomb which had been hewn out of a rock". The women were "watching at a distance" and "took note of the place where he was laid". However, when early in the morning on the first day of the week they returned to anoint Jesus, his body was no longer there. All they saw was an empty tomb and an angel telling them that he had risen from the dead.


Passion Sunday really commemorates two events - not only the solemn entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," but also the anointing at Bethany. In the Roman Rite, but not in the Ambrosian Rite of Milan or the eastern rites, the anointing at Bethany became sidelined. How could it compete with the blessing of palm and olive branches, children with tea-towels on their heads and donkeys, or the powerful singing of "Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit", surely the most sublime, wonderful and evocative piece of liturgical drama ever written?


We have been conditioned into doing the very opposite of what Jesus told us to do: proclaim, celebrate and remember that woman and what she did at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. She, the true disciple of Jesus, is starkly contrasted in St Mark's Gospel with "Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, who approached the chief priests with an offer to hand Jesus over to them". The faith, love, generosity and sacrifice of a woman are contrasted with the treachery, self-centredness, and money-grasping betrayal of Judas.


Although we no longer anoint the dead, we do anoint the living. We anoint the sick with holy oil, and in baptism, confirmation and holy orders we anoint with chrism. We also anoint the walls of a church and the altar on the day of their consecration. Whoever and whatever symbolises Christ is anointed. You could say that sacramental anointing, that putting on of Christ which is the work of the Holy Spirit, was inaugurated at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper by an unnamed woman. Later on various accounts of anointing would be conflated. If there is any proof of the authenticity of the canonical gospels it is that there was no collusion among the authors. I mention this because of the vast amount of uninformed debate going on at the moment over the so-called Gospel of Judas. "She," said Jesus, "she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial."


In every sacrament we enter into and become part of the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. We are initiated and strengthened as members of his Body, the Church. The Eucharist, the memorial par excellence of the Paschal mystery, "Do this in remembrance of me," can only be celebrated by those who are baptised and confirmed, can only be presided over by those who have been ordained and should normally only be celebrated in a consecrated building and on a consecrated altar, thus manifesting the real presence of Christ and the unity of the Church. All this goes back not only to the Upper Room and the Last Supper but also to that good work performed by a woman, a woman without a name, at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper.


"I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout the whole world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will also be told, in remembrance of her." My dear friends in Christ, never forget that woman, remember her always and thank God for what she did. Let us follow her example, not that of Judas. Let us die with Christ and rise with him this Holy Week that through him, with him and in him in the unity of the Holy Spirit we may give glory to God our Father for ever and ever. Amen.

Palm Sunday 2006


"I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout the whole world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will also be told, in remembrance of her." With these words Jesus silences the critics of the unnamed woman who at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper anointed him in preparation for his death and burial with an alabaster jar full of very costly ointment, pure nard. "She has anointed my body beforehand for its burial."


You will notice that the burial of Jesus at the very end of St Mark's Passion narrative is so hurried that there was no time to anoint the body. Joseph of Arimathaea simply wrapped it in a shroud and laid it to rest "in a tomb which had been hewn out of a rock". The women were "watching at a distance" and "took note of the place where he was laid". However, when early in the morning on the first day of the week they returned to anoint Jesus, his body was no longer there. All they saw was an empty tomb and an angel telling them that he had risen from the dead.


Passion Sunday really commemorates two events - not only the solemn entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," but also the anointing at Bethany. In the Roman Rite, but not in the Ambrosian Rite of Milan or the eastern rites, the anointing at Bethany became sidelined. How could it compete with the blessing of palm and olive branches, children with tea-towels on their heads and donkeys, or the powerful singing of "Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit", surely the most sublime, wonderful and evocative piece of liturgical drama ever written?


We have been conditioned into doing the very opposite of what Jesus told us to do: proclaim, celebrate and remember that woman and what she did at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. She, the true disciple of Jesus, is starkly contrasted in St Mark's Gospel with "Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, who approached the chief priests with an offer to hand Jesus over to them". The faith, love, generosity and sacrifice of a woman are contrasted with the treachery, self-centredness, and money-grasping betrayal of Judas.


Although we no longer anoint the dead, we do anoint the living. We anoint the sick with holy oil, and in baptism, confirmation and holy orders we anoint with chrism. We also anoint the walls of a church and the altar on the day of their consecration. Whoever and whatever symbolises Christ is anointed. You could say that sacramental anointing, that putting on of Christ which is the work of the Holy Spirit, was inaugurated at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper by an unnamed woman. Later on various accounts of anointing would be conflated. If there is any proof of the authenticity of the canonical gospels it is that there was no collusion among the authors. I mention this because of the vast amount of uninformed debate going on at the moment over the so-called Gospel of Judas. "She," said Jesus, "she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial."


In every sacrament we enter into and become part of the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. We are initiated and strengthened as members of his Body, the Church. The Eucharist, the memorial par excellence of the Paschal mystery, "Do this in remembrance of me," can only be celebrated by those who are baptised and confirmed, can only be presided over by those who have been ordained and should normally only be celebrated in a consecrated building and on a consecrated altar, thus manifesting the real presence of Christ and the unity of the Church. All this goes back not only to the Upper Room and the Last Supper but also to that good work performed by a woman, a woman without a name, at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper.


"I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout the whole world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will also be told, in remembrance of her." My dear friends in Christ, never forget that woman, remember her always and thank God for what she did. Let us follow her example, not that of Judas. Let us die with Christ and rise with him this Holy Week that through him, with him and in him in the unity of the Holy Spirit we may give glory to God our Father for ever and ever. Amen.

Palm Sunday 2006


"I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout the whole world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will also be told, in remembrance of her." With these words Jesus silences the critics of the unnamed woman who at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper anointed him in preparation for his death and burial with an alabaster jar full of very costly ointment, pure nard. "She has anointed my body beforehand for its burial."


You will notice that the burial of Jesus at the very end of St Mark's Passion narrative is so hurried that there was no time to anoint the body. Joseph of Arimathaea simply wrapped it in a shroud and laid it to rest "in a tomb which had been hewn out of a rock". The women were "watching at a distance" and "took note of the place where he was laid". However, when early in the morning on the first day of the week they returned to anoint Jesus, his body was no longer there. All they saw was an empty tomb and an angel telling them that he had risen from the dead.


Passion Sunday really commemorates two events - not only the solemn entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," but also the anointing at Bethany. In the Roman Rite, but not in the Ambrosian Rite of Milan or the eastern rites, the anointing at Bethany became sidelined. How could it compete with the blessing of palm and olive branches, children with tea-towels on their heads and donkeys, or the powerful singing of "Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit", surely the most sublime, wonderful and evocative piece of liturgical drama ever written?


We have been conditioned into doing the very opposite of what Jesus told us to do: proclaim, celebrate and remember that woman and what she did at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. She, the true disciple of Jesus, is starkly contrasted in St Mark's Gospel with "Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, who approached the chief priests with an offer to hand Jesus over to them". The faith, love, generosity and sacrifice of a woman are contrasted with the treachery, self-centredness, and money-grasping betrayal of Judas.


Although we no longer anoint the dead, we do anoint the living. We anoint the sick with holy oil, and in baptism, confirmation and holy orders we anoint with chrism. We also anoint the walls of a church and the altar on the day of their consecration. Whoever and whatever symbolises Christ is anointed. You could say that sacramental anointing, that putting on of Christ which is the work of the Holy Spirit, was inaugurated at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper by an unnamed woman. Later on various accounts of anointing would be conflated. If there is any proof of the authenticity of the canonical gospels it is that there was no collusion among the authors. I mention this because of the vast amount of uninformed debate going on at the moment over the so-called Gospel of Judas. "She," said Jesus, "she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial."


In every sacrament we enter into and become part of the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. We are initiated and strengthened as members of his Body, the Church. The Eucharist, the memorial par excellence of the Paschal mystery, "Do this in remembrance of me," can only be celebrated by those who are baptised and confirmed, can only be presided over by those who have been ordained and should normally only be celebrated in a consecrated building and on a consecrated altar, thus manifesting the real presence of Christ and the unity of the Church. All this goes back not only to the Upper Room and the Last Supper but also to that good work performed by a woman, a woman without a name, at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper.


"I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout the whole world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will also be told, in remembrance of her." My dear friends in Christ, never forget that woman, remember her always and thank God for what she did. Let us follow her example, not that of Judas. Let us die with Christ and rise with him this Holy Week that through him, with him and in him in the unity of the Holy Spirit we may give glory to God our Father for ever and ever. Amen.



PALM SUNDAY WITH THE POPE

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