Sunday, March 17, 2013

Blessed John Henry Newman on Passion Sunday

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite, today is Passion Sunday. Blessed John Henry Newman compiled these notes for one of his sermons on this fifth Sunday in the season of Lent, meditating on Christ's priesthood. The readings for today's Mass are from the Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 9, verses 11-15 and from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 8,  verses 46-59. Newman's notes:

1. INTROD.—Go through the gospel of the day, showing the strangeness of our Lord's doctrine, and the surprise and contempt of the Jews, in detail—modes of expression, ideas, objects, different.

2. So it was: it was a different system. If the world was true, He was not; if He, the world not.

3. They felt it obscurely and in detail, though He did not speak openly. How would they have felt if our Lord had said openly, 'I am the priest of the world'? What a great expression! But this is the truth, as forced on us by today's epistle. What the gospel says obscurely the epistle speaks out.

4. What is a priest? See how much it implies: first the need of reconciliation—it has at once to do with sin; it presupposes sin. When then our Lord is known to come as a priest, see how the whole face of the world is changed. Describe the world, how it goes on, buying and selling, etc.; then the light thrown on it that it is responsible to God, and has ill acquitted itself of that responsibility.

5. Again, it implies one the highest in rank. The head of the family was a priest—primogeniture. Hence Christ the Son of God.

6. Christ then, the Son of God, offers for the whole world, and that offering is Himself. He who is high as eternity, whose arms stretch through infinity, is lifted up on the cross for the sins of the world.

7. And He is a priest for ever. 'Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedec.' The offering of the Mass. Say not it is an historical religion, done and over; it lasts.

8. And as, for ever, so all things with blood. Why? Grace of Christ, and Adam's grace before the fall. Men 'washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb'; 'the blood of Christ cleanseth,' 1 John i. 7

9. Now turn back and see how different from what we see—need of faith, so says our Lord in the gospel of the day.

10. And this awful addition, 'He that heareth the word of God is of God,' etc., John viii. 47

11. This a reason for these yearly commemorations, to bring on us the thought of the unseen world.
Less obscure, perhaps, is Newman's Litany of the Passion, which is included in the Meditations and Devotions for private use:
Jesus, the Eternal Wisdom, Have mercy on us.
The Word made flesh, Have mercy on us.
Hated by the world, Have mercy on us.
Sold for thirty pieces of silver, Have mercy on us.
Sweating blood in Thy agony, Have mercy on us.
Betrayed by Judas, Have mercy on us.
Forsaken by Thy disciples, Have mercy on us.
Struck upon the cheek, Have mercy on us.
Accused by false witnesses, Have mercy on us.
Spit upon in the face, Have mercy on us.
Denied by Peter, Have mercy on us.
Mocked by Herod, Have mercy on us.
Scourged by Pilate, Have mercy on us.
Rejected for Barabbas, Have mercy on us.
Loaded with the cross, Have mercy on us.
Crowned with thorns, Have mercy on us.
Stripped of Thy garments, Have mercy on us.
Nailed to the tree, Have mercy on us.
Reviled by the Jews, Have mercy on us.
Scoffed at by the malefactor, Have mercy on us.
Wounded in the side, Have mercy on us.
Shedding Thy last drop of blood, Have mercy on us.
Forsaken by Thy Father, Have mercy on us.
Dying for our sins, Have mercy on us.

The statues in Catholic churches are veiled from this Sunday until Easter. As notes, we do this because: "This veiling of the statues and icons stems from the Gospel reading of Passion Sunday (John 8:46-59), at the end of which the Jews take up stones to cast at Jesus, Who hides Himself away. The veiling also symbolizes the fact that Christ's Divinity was hidden at the time of His Passion and death, the very essence of Passiontide."

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