Today is the great day of mourning. There is a sense of loss and emptiness like no other time. But in Christ’s death there is also an anticipation of something great. At the moment of his death Jesus stated, “It is finished,” “It is accomplished,” “or it is consummated,” depending on the translation. What was finished, what was accomplished, what was consummated? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that “Christ’s death is the unique and definitive sacrifice.”
Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (CCC 613)
Jesus is laid in the tomb, but how can a tomb contain He who created all things. Jesus broke the bonds of death by his death; “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Heb 2:9)
It is on this day that Christ entered hell to free all those who had gone before Him in righteousness. First let us consider the word hell. the hell referred to here is not the hell of the damned but refers to the abode of the dead. Death was not part of the original plan but was only introduced into the world after that first sin and we were deprived of the vision of God. In the Greek this abode of the dead is translated as Hades and in the Hebrew it is Sheol. This is where all the dead whether evil or righteous waited for the redeemer.
“For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:6)
The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. (CCC 634)
It is in Christ’s death on the cross that our salvation was realized. On this day all the righteous were released from hell and the gates of heaven were opened. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 635 that, “Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Jesus, “the Author of life,” by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades,” so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
The Church both east and west takes from its ancient tradition and reads St. John Chrysostem’s Paschal Homily (east) and an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday, author unknown (west). Here is an excerpt from the Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday:
The Lord’s descent into hell
“What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.
Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.
The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.
‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead
But wait, His death is not the end of the story. That would not be the appropriate ending for the Greatest Story Ever Told. I know that many like to shy away from the thought of our Lord’s passion and death. But we must remember that without His humiliation and death we do not have the Glory found on Easter morning.
Please do not let this day pass without reflecting on Jesus’s time in the tomb and among those in hell. When we take time to reflect on this day it brings us a greater appreciation for the next chapter in the story, the Glory of Easter.
I close with this prayer from the Vatican Website:
Almighty, ever-living God, whose Only-begotten Son descended to the realm of the dead, and rose from there to glory, grant that your faithful people, who were buried with Him in baptism, may, by His resurrection, obtain eternal life. We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ve heard that attendance at church on Ash Wednesday is one of the highest in the church year. I guess we Catholics love getting stuff for free even if it is ashes. I wonder where Palm Sunday ranks.
Ash Wednesday starts our forty days of following Christ in the desert. We cast off our excesses and focus on prayer, fasting and alms giving. I thought I would share this link to aid us all in our Lenten journey. http://www.xt3.com/lent/
I pray your Lenten journey brings you closer to the risen Christ. May Christ’s example inspire you, the Father’s Love strengthen you, and the Holy Spirit guide you.
O Lord, who hast mercy upon all, take away from me my sins, and mercifully kindle in me the fire of thy Holy Spirit. Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore Thee, a heart to delight in Thee, to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ’s sake, Amen St. Ambrose of Milan (AD 339-397)
O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of laziness, despair, lust of power, and idle talk (prostration)
But give rather the spirit of sobriety, humility, patience and love to Thy servant. (prostration)
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen (prostration) St. Ephraim the Syrian (AD 305-373)
An Inscription in the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, Algeria that reads: "Brotherly love comes from God. It is God Himself."
I hope to speak more about God’s love for us and our response to that love. As I try to craft that post I thought this video would be a nice bridge between my last post and hopefully my next post. This is Father James Kubicki, S.J. the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer. I hope you find this edifying.
It all began in the year 1844 with some frustrated Jesuit seminarians and their wise but slightly exasperated spiritual director. These seminarians in Vals, France were eager to join the missions in India and America. After hearing the seminarians grumbling about their studies and wondering how their dull boring studies would make them better missionaries their spiritual director challenged them.
Fr. Francis X. Gautrelet, S.J., urged his young Jesuit brothers: “Be apostles now, apostles of prayer! Offer everything you are doing each day in union with the Heart of our Lord for what He wishes, the spread of the Kingdom for the salvation of souls.”
With these words the seed was planted for what would become the Apostleship of Prayer. Fr. Gautrelet taught the seminarians to offer each day to God. Their prayer, study, work, recreation, joy and struggle when united with Christ’s sacrifice would advance the work of the missions as much as their direct work in the field. Soon this practice of daily offering spread through the surrounding French countryside. This practice was soon formalized into what we know today as the Morning (or Daily) Offering to help people unite their daily lives to Christ’s sacrifice for the intentions of His Heart.
What soon followed in 1861 was the publication of the first Messenger of the Sacred Heart. This magazine tried to develop an awareness of the needs of the universal church.
Pope Leo XIII
In the 1880’s Pope Leo XIII noticed the spread of this devotion and announced a prayer intention for each month to go with the Morning Offering. The intent of the prayer was to unite the Catholic Church bringing members closer to each other and closer to Christ.
Pope Pius XI
In 1929 Pope Pius XI added a specific missionary intention for each month. To this day the Holy Father announces two monthly prayer intentions.
The Apostleship of Prayer has been called the Pope’s own “prayer group.” For the Pope’s prayer intentions for 2011 click here.
Pope Pius XII in prayer
On the Occasion of the Apostleship of Prayer’s 100th anniversary in 1944, Pope Pius XII called the Apostleship, “one of the most efficacious means for the salvation of souls, since it concerns prayer and prayer in common.”
Pope John Paul II at Western Wall
John Paul II called the Apostleship ofPrayer in 1985, “a precious treasure from the Pope’s heart and the Heart of Christ.”
Fr. Gautrelet wrote this traditional Morning Offering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1844:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, the reparation of sin, the reunion of Christians; and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.
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Tagged Apostleship of Prayer, Catholic Church, Catholicism, Christianity, God, Holy Father, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mass (liturgy), Morning Offering, Pope, Pope John Paul II, Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII, prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Sacred Heart, Society of Jesus
I thought I would join the blog challenge for 2011. I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now. I will be posting on this blog once a week for all of 2011.
I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.
If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments, likes, and good will along the way.