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Lenten Reflections '13: Wk 5
Ecce lignum Crucis! In qua salus mundi pependit!
Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world!
The suggestive gesture of unveiling and adoration of the Crucifix takes the place of Eucharistic Anaphora (the preface, Eucharistic prayer and doxology) in the Good Friday Liturgy. After the Liturgy of the Word and Intercession, the celebrant showing the Crucifix to the faithful, proclaims: “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world!” The people respond with “come let us adore” and kneel down to worship the Cross in silent adoration. The veneration of the Crucifix is followed by the rite of Holy Communion and the assembly dismisses in silence.
Surrexit Dominus vere
The Lord is truly risen
Christians know that Good Friday acclamation is the prelude to the angel’s relay of Christ’s victory over death on the Easter dawn: “He is not here (among the dead); He is risen.” The incessant mantra that wells up in the heart of the disciple thereafter is: “the Lord is risen indeed”.
Hoc facite in meam commemorationem
Do this in memory of me
The Passover meal on the Thursday is threshold to the great banquet hall of Lamb’s marriage. In this New Covenant, the priest and oblation are one and same. His self-giving love has won the heart of strayed world, the Lamb’s bride-in-making. This union of God with the people is the eternal remembrance (re-member-ing) celebrated, feasted and proclaimed in every Eucharist, which is the Passover of the New Covenant: Do this in Memory of Me! In such simple and profound words and gesture the Lord’s people come together to celebrate and to steep themselves in the prodigy of salvation procured by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Euntes … praedicate evangelium omni creaturae!
Go and preach Gospel to all creation
Mandated by her Lord, the Church, the bride of the Lamb proclaims in utter honesty and humility and irresistible joy the Paschal mystery of the Lord to the world as the haven of grace; because she knows candidly that the world needs to draw from this spring of salvation and that the world cannot do without it, but primarily because she herself is born out of the Pascha.
The word “proclamation” dear to Christian missionary, unfortunately fails to resonate in unison in all the ears. If missionary activity is met with resistance and loathing, the hearers are not solely to be blamed for it. The contemporary world is entrenched in aggressive marketing and propagandizing its tyranny of self-glorification and consumerism. Much wealth and thought are pumped into the making of eyeful ads subscribing to a consumerist culture in the market.
The common man mistrusts the market even when he cannot escape its magnetic pull. The youth are the worst hit. Bereft of guides who are genuine and clawed by bells and whistles of the one-stop buy & enjoy malls and fanfares, they fast become scatterbrained and running empty.
Sadly the religion is also put on sale! Preachers - not all - donned as semi-gods and wonder-workers with simulated aura of stardom seem to garner for themselves clout and cash, fame and cronies. Gospel is for stages and markets left to the mercy of Mammon! Because of them evangelization has gone expensive and the poor who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the Gospel cannot afford to buy it. In every triumphal show of religion it seems the “good” has fallen out of the proclamation (The word “evangelize” is combination of “good” (eu) and “proclaiming” (aggello).
Still, the Christians are never without hope. Easter is God’s truth for us. The Cross is the antidote to the temptation of man at all times to subdue the wood of paradise, while resurrection is the abundance of new life the tree of life bears for humanity. The “folly” of the cross is God’s war against dons and gods of the world who have turned it into a den of robbers and resurrection is God’s victory and will to establish the world on the wheels of justice and righteousness until its consummation when He will return to His own. By constantly living her communion with the Risen One, her head and spouse (I am with you till the end of days), Church becomes a pathfinder and herald of Gospel to the rest of the world. She continues her pilgrimage through history until it dawns upon her the new heaven and new earth:
Revelation 21, 1-4: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.
The strategy of proclamation calls for rethinking, but the most of all it depends on our ability to trust in God (God alone!) and on His promises and plan for the world manifested in the Passover of His Son. If I am left to pick random aspects of communicating Gospel in our times I would prioritize them like the following:
a. Silence: Silence enhances and gives vitality to proclamation. It is a sign of profundity of faith. Silence is fruit of trust. It is a well spring of joy and oasis for those who are broke and deadwood. It creates space of authentic discovery of the deepest yearning for God. The youth need silence to find the meaning of life as it enables them to enter into a loving encounter with the Risen one; it is a mistake to swap it with bustles, thinking that activities alone matter. Many often seem to think that silence needs be to filled- an agenda of the market indeed to sell its pops and raps; the truth is that silence is full in itself and attempts to fill it is sheer drifting from what is real and authentic.
b. Simplicity: Simplicity facilitates a heart-to-heart fanning of faith. The simplicity favours truth which everyone can understand, love and incorporate. It fosters joy and understanding among people. It resists against being judgmental and brow-beating of another’s beliefs and upholds the dignity of any human person beyond the barriers of colour and caste, creed and expression.
c. Celebration: Our celebrations whether liturgical or social occasions when they are simple and natural they generate deep communion with God and they can bond us with wider circles of the humanity so that every celebration with God is truly universal.
d. To be poor in heart and to have poor in the heart: The blessedness of the poor spoken in the Gospel is the result of friendship and a symbiosis with the Lord. The spirit of poverty is an evangelic revolution and battle against the idolatry of greed and power and religious triumphalism. Love for the poor is as important as the love for the Lord. Jesus related the woman’s anointing of him with expensive nard - a token of her unbounded love for her Master- to the guarantee of the presence of the poor with his disciples always; just as he set on same pedestal the mercy shown by a non-descript outcast to balm the wounds of derelict abandoned by the priest and Levite, as true imitation of one who is Merciful. A church where poor are not welcome is anything but the Church of the Crucified and Risen, just as a Church that has not understood the blessedness of poor is a church of Mammon! Faith without works of love is dead.
e. Programmes and conventions: They are optional! We might use them sparingly. Francis of Assisi, one of the best known “interpreters” of the Gospel, used to advise his disciples: “Come let us preach Gospel always (with our lives); words, let us use them sparingly and only if necessary”.
Fr. James Anaparambil