"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

Friday 29 March 2013


What then is the Eucharist? Christ in his self-surrender, the eternal reality of the suffering and death of the Lord immortalized in a form that permits us to draw from it vitality for our spiritual life as concrete as the food and drink from which we draw our physical  strength. . . .Any attempt to “spiritualize” or “purify” it must destroy it. It is presumption and incredulity to try to fix the limits of the possible. God says what he wills, and what he wills, is. He alone “to the end” sets the form and measure of his love.

Then they walked up the valley until they came to a farm called Gethsemane. Jesus has often sat there with his disciples, teaching. . . .Only the three who had recently been with him on the mountain of the Transfiguration, Peter, James. And John,  accompany him. A terrible sadness overcomes the Lord – sadness “unto death” says Holy Scripture. . . .Alone, he advances a few paces, falls on his face and prays. This is no place for psychology. When guided by reverence and warmed by generosity, psychology is an excellent thing, doing much to help one human understand another. . . .

Psychology would explain Gethsemane similarly: the rejection by both the ruling class and the masses, the pilgrimage to Jerusalem with its tremendous experiences, the entry into the city, the terrible waiting of the preceding days, the treachery and the Last Supper – as a result of the prolonged strain now the breakdown. . . .But with Jesus any such explanation is bound to founder. If it is insisted upon, Holy Thursday is robbed of that weight and salutary power which can be sensed only in contrition and adoration. Here we can proceed solely through faith guided by revelation. . . .

What does faith tell us? Before all else who this man is there on his knees – the Son of God in the simplest sense of the word. For that reason he sees existence in its ultimate reality. . . .

No one has ever seen existence as Jesus saw it. . . . In that hour when his human heart lifted the world from its vapors of deception, he beheld it as otherwise only God beholds it – in all its hideous nakedness. What happened was truth realized in charity. And we are given the standpoint from which we too can see through and reject deception. For that is the meaning of salvation: seeing the world as Christ saw it and experiencing his repulsion of sin. 

Fr. Romano Guardini (1885 – 1968), author and academic, was one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in 20th-century. His most famous book is The Lord (Gateway Editions). He was a mentor to such prominent theologians as Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger.

We shall build this post during the day.

The Cross of St Benedict at Pachacamac Monastery

It is precisely the veneration of the cross which serves the main ideas of the liturgical reform:  active participation of the believing people in the healing action of the rite.  For it is one thing to see the adoration the cross performed perhaps at a considerable distance by clergy, and another to enter oneself into the sanctuary to give answer in person to the Lord's decisive question:  'My people, what have I done to thee?'

If one is only an onlooker at this reverence, one can well let it go by, without being inwardly touched by it:  a fine ceremony which binds the individual to nothing.  But one who goes up and takes part must pledge himself to the crucified Lord for life and death, must offer his longing to have part in Jesus' suffering, to have a share in the Pasch, both here in ritual and in all the difficulty of daily life.... Understood and performed in such a way, the symbolic act of the veneration of the cross can become a true mysterium, if not in the perfect manner of the eucharist, still communicating a real union with the suffering and dying Christ.
                (Dame Aemiliana Lohr OSB) my source: Cathedral Liturgy (Seattle)

Latin American Good Friday

Talk on Good Friday       Belmont  Abbey,
by Dom Alex Echeandía                                              29th March 2013

Dom Alex Echeandia is a Peruvian monk of our Pachacamac monastery studying Theology at Blackfriars, Oxford, as well as iconography under Aidan Hart.  Br Alex is now a Deacon, and this talk he gave today to people doing a Holy Week retreat at our mother house, Belmont Abbey.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

 Tenebrae from Blackfriars, Oxford

We begin this talk with these words of Jesus taken from Mathew’s Gospel. Why do we call this day “Good Friday”? What is good about it? Is it because on this day Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified? Do we celebrate the fact that the Just One was the victim of a political and religious murder?

As we have been praying the Via Crucis a few minutes ago in the Abbey church, we have vividly imagined the kind of death Our Lord suffered. We realise that He indeed was put to death by the cruelest, most shameful mode of execution you could imagine; and on top of that, forsaken by God: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.  What's good about Good Friday?

Let’s travel together into the scenery of the first Good Friday. Here we see the suffering of Christ punished by the soldiers. Some of you will remember the film “The Passion” by Mel Gibson, in which Christ is presented in a very bloody way. Perhaps, some may think that what this film tells us is an exaggeration of what really happened. We cannot know for certain the physical details of what really happened; but the truth is that Christ really suffered for us, physically, mentally, with all his being, in order to save us all. The Son of God and Son of Mary came to earth to save us in every sense.

Let us look more closely at the cross, because it is the central point of Jesus’ passion and death.  At the beginning of his crucifixion, as Mark[1] tells us, Christ was offered the customary anaesthetizing drink to reduce the unbearable pain. Jesus refused to drink it because he wanted to bear the suffering consciously to the very end. Nevertheless, later on, in the middle of the day, he called out: “I thirst”.[2] He was offered soft wine or vinegar to drink. In this way, he reveals with this act the fullness of his humanity; it is a man who thirsts. This same Jesus also wept for Lazarus, rejoiced with the Apostles, reacted in the Temple, and was hungry in the desert at the beginning of his ministry.  Thus, Christ in the fullness of his humanity accepted freely to suffer and die for us.

When Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross, he drew all people to himself. He invites us to learn from Him who is gentle and humble of heart and to find rest in our souls. Christ from the cross teaches us how to live and how to die. Once more, He teaches his disciples, even if they had forgotten their teacher.

But Jesus was not alone at his crucifixion. As Luke tells us in his Gospel, the thieves were sharing the same suffering. The forgotten teacher found a good disciple at the very cross: the good thief.

In one of his sermons St Augustine[3] talks about it. He contrasts the attitude of hopelessness of the Jesus’ disciples after the crucifixion with the Good Thief's eagerness to learn to hope in the Lord. Augustine says that the disciples had forgotten their Master whereas the Good Thief had found his. I quote him by saying,

That cross was a classroom; that is where the Teacher taught the thief; the cross he was hanging on became the chair he was teaching from.   Here Augustine contrasts the disciples’ loss of hope after the crucifixion with the good thief’s willingness to learn to hope from Jesus, even as Jesus was hanging on the cross.

Jesus tells him “today you will be with me in paradise.” Why did he say that to the thief? It was not because he was sharing the same suffering, but because he acknowledged Jesus even when He was being tortured on the Cross. “You will be with me in paradise”. With me, he says. He doesn't simply say “You will be in paradise,” or “You will be with someone else.” No. He says: “You will be with me!” You will be filled and satisfied by the One you desire. Suddenly it comes to our minds the episode of the Samaritan woman: “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.”[4] In other words, what Jesus promised to the thief was that: “you will be satisfied when you see in majesty the One whom you acknowledge as crushed by humiliation and shame"


To this criminal, robber or murderer perhaps, who was sharing the same suffering as being crucified with him, he said: “Today, I tell you, you will be with me in Paradise,' - in Paradise, from which Adam, the first criminal, was expelled at the beginning of the sorry story of human history. So, how is it that two criminals are going to where the first criminal could not go back? He is making himself one with sinners, taking upon Himself all the sins, all the wickedness and evil perpetrated by the human race from the beginning to the end of time. 

Nowadays and in the past, society tells us that a criminal must suffer punishment for what he did. In this way, Jesus on the cross was making the sufferings of all suffering humanity his own, so that all suffering men, women and children may endow their sufferings, however cruel, repulsive, nasty, pointless they are, with the dignity and honour of being the sufferings of the Son of God.  Christ on the cross embodies all the pains we bear. Only through Christ on the cross can we make sense of the 
difficulties we have to put up with, the senseless pains we have to endure.

Good Friday: certainly it is good because it was necessary in order to see the Lord's rising from the dead. To do that, he had to die first, had to share our death, so that we might share in his resurrection. As the stone from the tomb in which Jesus was laid was opened after his death, and the veil of the Holy of Holies was divided in two from top to bottom; Good Friday is the door through which he, and we with him, pass through death to life everlasting.

This is what we as Christians understand by this holy day, but in the world we live in, people may ask you: What really happened on the first Good Friday? If you ask anybody, probably no one can give you a single answer; nor was a single answer given in Jesus own time either.

As you know I come from South America. There we have a very popular custom to dramatize the Passion of Christ: the Via Crucis.  It takes about two or three hours with so many events. It is actually beautiful to remember what it was like during the first Good Friday.

But in order see the picture in its wholeness and realise more vividly the passion and death of Christ, we need to avoid being stuck in the separate events, and join all of them in one single image as we introduce ourselves into the passion of our Lord, beginning with his arrest until his death on Golgotha.
Moreover, people involved in this sequence of acts understood and reacted differently to what was going on. For example, Mary, the Mother of God, and Jesus’ disciples had their own grief to cope with. Even within the group of Apostles, whose faith was tested, we may observe the difference of attitude between them. Moreover, the soldiers and guards regarded it just another duty they needed to fulfil. The Jewish and Roman authorities made decisions related to their religious and political affairs. Barnabas, on the other hand, had in Jesus’ arrest an opportunity for freedom; the crowds in Jerusalem on that very day saw in it nothing beyond one more public execution. You can probably compare it in today’s life with a traffic accident or with a fight between two men, people come close and watch for different reasons.

If someone who did not know what was happening during Jesus’ passion and death, he would have asked at that time: “What happened?” He would have received different answers. Today, if you ask anybody what Good Friday means for him or her, you probably will receive different answers as well. You would hear the belief that nothing was the same after that Friday; but also you would find in others indifference and ignorance.

So, what that Friday brought for us was “Goodness”, “Love” that are expressed in its fullness through the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary. It is inseparably connected to his life on earth before the crucifixion, and to his Resurrection. The whole creation experienced the fulness of God. It involved all humanity, including Israel, the chosen people. The crucifixion is the sign of God’s love and goodness, but sadly it easily stays short in our memories and our hearts.

This sacrifice on the cross shows the way Jesus Christ died, but this death happened once for all. There will be no repetition because Christ is risen. This is the mystery we celebrate at Easter every year in memory of Christ.

That is why the Eucharist is a sacrifice because it makes present the sacrifice of the cross and also it bears the fruits that come from that very cross. We receive the Body of Jesus, broken for us and our salvation as Holy Communion, and so once again we are mystically united not only with Jesus' suffering and death, but also his promise of resurrection and new life. We receive God's strength to carry on living in hope, as the good thief at the last moment of his life. The goodness of Good Friday is redemptive and transforming.

Without the cross, there is no resurrection. Without resurrection, the Passion is indeed a story of brutality, as the film of Mel Gigson shows, of the way in which fear and hatred seek to erase the humanity of their victims; but above all, it is a story of failure, of pointlessness, of despair.  In contrast, seen through the lens of the Resurrection, it is the story of triumph: the victory of love over hatred, of hope over despair, of life over death. This really makes sense when we name this very day as “Good Friday”.

Finally we reflect on what is going to happen this afternoon. The liturgy today is punctuated by periods of silence. It begins in silence as the ministers enter and prostrate before the altar. They venerate the cross and they depart in silence at the close of the ceremony. In a way we come to the liturgy on Good Friday so that He might address us Himself, that is why there is so much silence. We are silent so that we may not miss 'the word of the Cross'.

The power of the liturgy of Good Friday comes from the silent gaze of him who bore 'the weight of our sins on the tree of the cross. The liturgy of Good Friday allows us to bring all the damaged goods which have marked our lives, those of which we are aware and those we have suppressed or cannot articulate, to lay them at the feet of the crucified Lord. Together with the thief, all of us can make same prayer 'Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom'. On this day when a great silence descends over the church we all identify with the repentant thief and make it an opportunity to come close to the one who died for us.

[1] Mk 15:23

[2] John 19:27

[3] The Cross in the Christian Tradition: From Paul to Bonaventure, edited by Elizabeth Dreyer.

[4] John 4:14


            “Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.” With these words of encouragement and hope, the Letter to the Hebrews invites us today to look upon Christ Crucified with confidence, asking him for every grace and blessing. In the Intercessions that follow we pray for all mankind, then we venerate the Cross and, on it, the image of Jesus our Saviour, the Lamb of God. Throughout the Bible, God comes very close to his people and enters into a personal relationship with each one of them. He becomes their friend. How much more so in Jesus. Think of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Through his Incarnation he has destroyed the barrier between God and Man. In Christ we find both natures in the One Person: he is true God and true Man. “To have seen me is to have seen the Father.”

We see this clearly in St John’s Passion. Pontius Pilate plays a particularly important role in this Gospel. He is a tragic figure, finding Jesus innocent and wishing to release him, yet he is scared of the mob and frightened of losing his job. Instead of listening to his conscience, he acquiesces to the demands of the crowd, “Crucify him. Crucify him.” He knows what is right and does what is wrong. He is a coward and his only excuse is that empty question, “Truth? What is that?” Yet, when all is lost, he still has courage to say, “What I have written, I have written.” With that imperial inscription in three languages, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” he acknowledges the truth about Jesus. In every lie there is an element of truth. Many world leaders today profess being Christian and yet govern and legislate in a totally unchristian way, not wishing to offend the vociferous majority or even minority. Pilate is alive and well in our world.

In St John the women who follow Jesus to Golgotha stay close to him and not at a distance as in the other Gospels.  The two Marys, his aunt and the Magdalene, are mentioned by name, but not his mother or even the beloved disciple. “Woman, this is your son. This is your mother.” Here we have a different aspect of the new Israel, the Church, constituted in the new Exodus of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. At the Last Supper the Twelve were present, but now at Golgotha it is his mother and the beloved disciple. Jesus brings them into a mother-son relationship and thus constitutes a Church, which is a family of disciples and friends. It will be the beloved disciple who discovers the empty tomb and Mary Madgalene, the Apostle of the apostles, who first sees the risen Lord. The Church is not only hierarchic but a community of believers who love one other as of brothers and sisters and so constitute God’s family.

Finally, when Jesus bows his head and gives up the spirit, we meet another group of followers, who make up the Church of Christ. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea embrace the body of the dead Christ and prepare it meticulously for burial, laying it to rest in a new tomb in a garden. We are reminded of that garden where it all began, the Garden of Eden. “Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies it remains a single grain.” We too share in the new creation of his Kingdom, that new heaven and new earth.

Christ invites us all to come to him with confidence and become his friends. In heaven there is room for all of us, for Peter and the apostles, for his mother and the beloved disciple, for the women who followed him from Galilee, for Simon of Cyrene and Veronica, for Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, for Pilate and his soldiers, for the scribes and Pharisees, even for Judas, such is the loving mercy of God. We must never forget that on Good Friday two mothers mourned the death of their sons. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more,” wrote St Paul. Today we approach with confidence the throne of grace, the Cross of Jesus, to receive mercy from him and find grace in our every need. To Him alone honour, glory and thanksgiving, now and for ever. Amen. 

Scriptural Rosary - Sorrowful Mysteries - EWTN -Part: 1 of 3 from objektivonemusic on GodTube.


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