Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Christ's Descent into Limbo, and the Incredulity of St Thomas




                
       Christ descends into Limbo - Fra Angelica 1395-1465
                      (pinterest. Gallerix orb)



LIMBO
 
The ancient greyness shifted 
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors 
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted 
A shining face and said :
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead; 
He died this afternoon.” 

A murmurous excitement
Stirred all souls. 
They wondered if they dreamed -
Save one old man who seemed 
Not even to have heard. 
And Moses standing, 
Hushed them all to ask 
If any had a welcome song prepared. 
If not, would David take the task?

And if they cared
Could not the three young children
Sing the Benedicite,
The canticle of praise they made 
When God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze? 
A breath of spring surprised them, 
Stilling Moses’ words. 

No one could speak, remembering 
The first fresh flowers, 
The little singing birds. 
Still others thought of fields new ploughed,
Or apple trees all blossom-boughed. 
Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water, 
Laughing down green hills.

The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam 
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home. 
And there He was 
Splendid as the morning sun and fair 
As only God is fair.

And they, confused with joy, 
Knelt to adore 
Seeing that he wore 
Five crimson stars
He never had before. 
No canticle at all was sung. 
None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song.

A silent man alone 
Of all that throng 
Found tongue - not any other.
Close to His heart 
When the embrace was done, 
Old Joseph said, “How is Your Mother,
How is Your Mother, Son?”

                                             Sister Mary Ada

 (‘The Mary Book’ an anthology by F.J.Sheed. Published by Sheed and Ward 1950.) 

                                               
*****
                                                        
'The Resurrection of Jesus'

'Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and she saw the stone taken away from the tomb. She ran therefore and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
    Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and they went to the tomb. The two were running together, and the other disciple ran on before, faster than Peter, and came first to the tomb.  And stooping down he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not enter. Simon Peter therefore, came following him, and he went into the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief which had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded in a place by itself. Then the other disciple also went in, who had come first to the tomb. And he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. The disciples therefore, went away again to their home.
    But Mary was standing outside weeping at the tomb, So, as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb, and saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid. They said to her, "Woman, why art thou weeping?" She said to them, "because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."

    When she had said this she turned round and beheld Jesus standing there, and she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why art thou weeping? Whom dost thou seek?" She, thinking that he was the gardener, said to him, "Sir, if thou hast removed him, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" Turning, she said to him, "Rabboni!" (that is to say Master).  Jesus said to her, "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say to them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'

    Mary Magdalene came, and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord, and these things he said to me."
    
    When it was late that same day, the first of the week, though the doors where the disciples gathered had been closed for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, "Peace be to you!" And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore rejoiced at the sight of the Lord. He therefore said to them again, "Peace be to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you." When he had said this , he breathed upon them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."
    Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came, The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

    And after eight days, his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being closed, and stood in their midst, and said, "Peace be to you." Then he said to Thomas, "Bring here thy finger, and see my hands; and bring here thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus said to him, "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."

    

Incredulity of St Thomas  by  Caravaggio (1601-2)

Many other signs also Jesus worked in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.   (John 20: v.1-31)

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

'Meditation on the Passion - the Institution of the Blessed Eucharist'

 

This post is the fourth from 'Meditation on the Passion' compiled by Rev Reginald Walsh O.P. and published by Burns, Oates, and Washbourne Ltd. in 1922.

These articles form the basis of Retreat notes originally intended for use in Convents, and later published for more general use within the wider  Church..

This particular post is quite long, but I have resisted the temptation to be selective  on the grounds that this may detract from the  spirituality inherent in the original article. It does demand a few minutes of the reader's time, but it offers spiritual blessings which we all need in this difficult and un-Christian world.   

'The Last Supper' by Dieric Bouts


I

   THE INSTITUTION OF THE BLESSED EUCHARIST

                                    (Mark xiv. Matt.xxvi. Luke xxii)

1st Prelude: History. --- After our Lord had washed the feet of His Apostles, He proceeded to institute the Holy Eucharist. This is the centre and soul of all that takes place at the Last Supper, and the fulfilment of the great promise made by Jesus about a year before in the Synagogue of Capharnaum; it is a mystery of the highest importance and widest range for the whole Church and Christian religion. “ And whilst they were at supper Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke, and gave to His disciples, and said,: 'Take ye, and eat: this is My Body.' And taking the chalice He gave thanks; and gave to them, saying: 'Drink ye all of this. For this is My Blood of the New Testament, which shall be said for many unto remission of sins. And I say to you: I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I shall drink it with you in the Kingdom of My Father.' (Matt. Xxvi. 26-29).

2nd Prelude: Composition of Place. --- The Supper-room, where I shall be present and observe all that is said and done. Note the silence, awe, reverence, the rapt attention with which every eye follows the Master. Oh, let us give heed now, and watch with our eyes, and with our ears listen; for the time that the Blessed Angels have been spending in expecting ecstasy is past --- the moment chosen by the Eternal Father has arrived: and Jesus, holding the bread in His Sacred Hands, is about to pronounce that word --- more wonderful than the word which created all things in the beginning ---- “This is My Body.”

3rd Prelude: Ask what I want. --- To see, and know, and realise the love of Jesus in giving Himself to me in the Holy Eucharist. Ah, dear Lord, give me that intimate knowledge which will fill my heart with a strong, enthusiastic overmastering, personal love of Thee. Draw me closer and closer to Thee, dear Jesus; this is my whole desire, that my heart may be united to Thee.


Points: 1. What our Lord does in the Institution of the Holy Eucharist.

II. The Institution of the Blessed Eucharist.

            III. How the Apostles received the Holy Eucharist.

I

WHAT OUR LORD DOES IN THE INSTITUTION OF THE

BLESSED EUCHARIST


St Paul tells us with pointed emphasis that it was on the very night in which He was betrayed that our Lord instituted the Mystery of Mysteries, the Sacrament of His love. It was worthy of His love and Divine generosity to choose the occasion when He was to be outraged, insulted, betrayed, and scourged, and crucified, to invent this wondrous Sacrament of Love. To forgive is always generous, but what shall we say of the generosity of One who not only forgives the most horrible insults and cruelty, but chooses the very day on which He is to suffer them for giving to His enemies a gift compared to which all other gifts are small and insignificant --- a gift, too, which is none other than Himself.

By instituting the Holy Eucharist Jesus does three very important things:-      

 I.   He founds quite a new form of His existence and Personal Presence in this world. This new existence of His has four qualities:  

 (a) It is a real, true, and essential presence of Jesus, although He is invisible, concealed under the appearances of bread and wine. This follows from the simple words by which it is instituted; from its object, as our Lord decrees, in accordance with His wisdom, power, and love, to make His last will and to leave us a memorial of Himself; and from the teaching and belief of the Church in all ages.        

    (b) This presence of Jesus is most marvellous as regards His Body as well as the continuance of the outward appearances; indeed, it is entirely produced and maintained by a miracle. 

 (c) Jesus' Presence is continual, never-ending, and multiplied a countless number of times, so that He is now in all parts of the world, which He has promised never to forsake. 

   (d) The Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is most efficacious, because it elevates the Church and makes her the true Bride and mystical Body of Christ, and comforts her in the exile of this life.

2.   Jesus institutes in the Holy Eucharist the Sacrifice of the New Testament. Christ has instituted the Holy Eucharist by a sacrifice, or make a sacrifice by instituting it, and has ordained that this sacrifice should be continued throughout all ages. The very words He used denote a sacrifice, and not merely a sacrament. 

He saysThis is My Body which is given for you. My Blood which shall be shed for you.” (Luke xxii. 19-20). To shed blood for the remission of sins is, in other words, to sacrifice. 

 The Holy Mass is precisely the sacrifice of the Last Supper --- a sacrifice of the greatest efficacy and of infinite value. And this on account of the High Priest who is Christ Himself; on account of the sacrificial gift which is again Christ, under the appearances of bread and wine; and on account of its effects on the whole Church --- militant, suffering, glorious or triumphant. 

3Jesus appoints and defines the essence of the Sacrament --- its effects--- commands us to receive it --- and ordains the Catholic Priesthood. 

 The essence of this Sacrament --- the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. Its effects --- the most intimate union with Christ under the form of food. 

 The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Life --- it preserves and increases the life of sanctifying grace, and marvellously develops it, especially through the actual graces it bestows for the extirpation of sinful concupiscence, and the increase of love, joy, zeal, and courage. 

 Jesus commands us to receive this Sacrament: “Take ye and eat ..drink ye all of this.” (Matt.xxvi., Mark xiv.) The Eucharist is the greatest and most glorious Sacrament, the end, crown, perfection, and seal of all Sacraments, by virtue of what it contains --- CHRIST HIMSELF --- and of its glorious effects.

Lastly, --- Jesus founds with the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, the Catholic Priesthood, which is to perpetuate this Sacrament and Sacrifice, It is certain that in the words, Do this for commemoration of Me,” He made the Apostles priests of the New Covenant. All the power of the priesthood has its source in the Eucharist --- its power over the true Body of Christ --- its power over the Mystical Body of Christ --- the faithful. The priesthood derives its influence and honour among the Catholic people, and also its purity, holiness, strength and invincible might from this most holy Sacrament --- from which indeed, all graces come. 

 In this Sacrament of the Altar our Lord has poured out on us all the riches of His love. St Thomas had good reason to call this Sacrament the Sacrament of Love, and a pledge of the most wonderful love which God could bestow upon man. St Bernard calls it “Love of loves.”

Colloquy. --- Ah, God of Infinite Goodness, enlighten me and make me comprehend the excess of goodness which induced Thee to become my food. Dear Lord Jesus, Thou hast given Thyself wholly to me, it is just I should give myself all to Thee. Yes, dear Lord, I do give myself to Thee entirely and for ever. Come, Lord Jesus, come, take entire possession of me




II

THE INSTITUTION OF THE MOST BLESSED EUCHARIST

The moment for giving the gift has come. Our Lord's love can wait no longer. He must come nearer and nearer to those friends of His; they must feel within them the throb of His Sacred Heart, His Blood must flow in their veins, His strength support them when the hour of temptation comes. When death is about to interpose an insurmountable barrier between those whom the bonds of friendship had long united, their love seems to acquire additional vehemence, and they eagerly avail of the last opportunity left them to testify its ardour and solidity.

The mortal life of Jesus had been but one uninterrupted manifestation of charity towards men, but not satisfied with this, not content with shedding the last drop of His Blood for our salvation, He determined when the last hour of His mortal life had come, and the hour of His return to the Father had arrived, to leave us yet another and a stronger pledge of His devoted Love. A stronger pledge! --- and could there be a more substantial proof of love than the sacrifice of life? Ah! What is impossible to man is not impossible to the love of God.

Awe-struck at the unparalleled humility of their Divine Master, the Apostles awaited in deep silence the development of some new and yet more wondrous mystery; they read in the impressive majesty of the Saviour's countenance, a revelation of something greater, grander, and holier than had been disclosed to them yet. 

 Jesus took bread into His holy and venerable hands, and, with His eyes lifted up to Heaven, returning thanks to God, His Father, He blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to His Disciples, saying: “Take ye, and eat: this is My Body, which shall be delivered for you; this do for the commemoration of Me.” 

And taking the chalice, giving thanks, He gave it to them. And they drank of it. And He said to them: “This is my Blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for you,”

See and contemplate our Jesus, full of love for His own even to the last. See Him as He takes the bread into His sacred and venerable hands, and lifting up His eyes to His Heavenly Father, becomes transfigured, His countenance shining like the sun, and His Heart on fire with love for us; He blesses the bread and transubstantiates it into His own most Blessed Body, leaving it to His Church in memory of His charity towards men. Taking the chalice, He did in like manner. Oh, the charity, power, and wisdom of our Lord. He gives us Himself, He could do no more. He gives Himself under the form of bread and wine, that He may be our food, and that we may be intimately united and one with Him, He changing us into Himself, not we changing Him into ourselves.

Bending low in adoration, the Apostles received their Lord, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. As simply as Simeon took the Infant God from His Mother's arms, do they take Him from Himself. They hear His word and believe. They receive Him and adore. O prodigy! 

 At the moment the words, “This is My Body,; this is My Blood,” were pronounced, the substance of bread and wine were changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself --- Jesus Christ, the Joy of Angels, the terror of devils, the Redeemer of men ---”Jesus Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead” --- “Jesus Christ, in whose name every knee should bow, of those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” (Phil. ii.10). And Jesus our loving God and Saviour, gives Himself in the Sacrament of love at the very time when man's ingratitude was plotting how to invent the utmost efforts of its malice against Him. Oh, the infinite goodness, liberality, meekness and love of our dear Lord!

And Judas, as he bent his knee and received the Living Bread and the Consecrated Chalice, did he think of another feast to which one came not having on the wedding garment? Did he think of the weeping and gnashing of teeth reserved for those who receive unworthily? Another chance thrown away, and with his heart more hardened still, he leaves the supper-room and goes out into the exterior darkness. O loving, outraged Heart of Jesus, defend me against myself --- never let me be unfaithful to Thee. May my life henceforth be one of loyal, loving devotion to Thee ---” “Amorem tui solum”.

In the Holy Eucharist Jesus gives the most precious gift which even His omnipotence and liberality can bestow --- His Sacred Heart --- the very source and centre of love. In exchange for so invaluable a gift, Jesus asks our whole heart, that He may unite us to Himself --- that He may heal and purify us; that He may enlighten us with His truth, and inflame us with His love. Shall I not give Him my heart without delay and without reserve? Love is self-sacrifice, and the Eucharist is a sacrifice, a constant and never-ending sacrifice. It is the Sacrament of love --- the supreme act of Jesus' love. Love is the communication of oneself; and our Lord could not give more than He gives us in the Eucharist, nor could He do it in a more gracious and loving way. How completely our Jesus lays aside all His glory here, and how lowly and familiar He makes Himself! We cannot imagine our Lord instituting this great mystery of love otherwise than with the most intense love --- the very words with which He began His Last Supper, “With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you”, point to this.

Our Lord instituted the Eucharist with great joy, on account of the glorious results that were to proceed from it. It is itself a great and glorious world of grace and holiness. Jesus saw all the Masses, all the Communions, all the altars that would make His thrones; all the moments that He would pass in this world; all those who would approach to the Holy Eucharist. He saw all the streams of grace, sanctification, comfort, and zeal that they would draw from this source; all the honour and glory that God would derive from its nature and use. What a grand and wonderful institution--- an act of infinite love! How can we ever make reserves with so good and loving a Master! The Eucharist is a continuation of the Incarnation. In it Jesus communicates Himself to every human heart, and becomes in very truth the vine that bears God's plants, sending the sap of His Divine life into all their branches and shoots, and causing them to blossom and bear the fruits of eternal life.

Is not the Blessed Sacrament the magnet and force by which our Lord draws all souls --- particularly Religious --- to Himself? Jesus saw all this, and His Sacred, loving, human Heart rejoiced unspeakably over it. But if it was with great love and joy Jesus instituted the most Blessed Eucharist, it was also with feelings of pain and sorrow, for our dear Lord saw this Eucharistic life surrounded and clouded by dark and terrible shadows of ingratitude, unbelief, and outrage. The precursor of those who would make Him this unworthy return --- a living example of this unbelief, callousness, and ingratitude --- was sitting by His side in the person of Judas. In him our Lord saw the terrible future of His Eucharistic existence. It was a bitter chalice in return for the chalice of sweetness and salvation that He was offering to those human hearts He so loved and longed to benefit. Surely His Heart must have shuddered at it. But these tempestuous waves of sorrow did not terrify Him; His love unhesitatingly pursued its way to our heart.

Shall I not offer to that adorable Heart the only return it desires or values --- the unreserved love of my own heart --- a generous, sincere, fervent, faithful love, a love as worthy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as I can make it? O Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist , I adore Thee: reign over me, possess me, dwell with me always, encompass me, I want to be ruled by Thee, O my dear Jesus, to obey Thy injunctions with prompt docility, to conform my will to Thy will, and follow Thy inspirations with punctual fidelity. O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Thy love for me: “Take O Lord, take and receive my entire liberty! Give me Thy love ---'Amorem tui solum' --- Rabboni, Jesus, Thou alone art my Master.”


III

HOW THE APOSTLES RECEIVED THE HOLY EUCHARIST

The Apostles made their First Communion (1) with the most child-like, simple faith. The Holy Eucharist is above all things a mystery of faith. Probably our Lord gave a full instruction, explaining everything, telling the Apostles that He was now about to put into actual execution what He had promised sometime previously in the synagogue at Capharnaum. And they receive our Lord's words with the same child-like faith now as they had done then, because He, their dear Master, Teacher, and God, speaks to them: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” (John vi. 69-70) 

2. The Apostles received the Body of our Lord with great purity of heart. Our Lord Himself affirmed this, saying that they were all pure except Judas, and only needed to be cleansed from slight stains. This cleansing was accomplished by means of the washing of their feet, in consequence of the heart-felt acts of humility and love that our Lord's example evoked in them.

3. They received the Holy Communion with a great desire to participate in the marvellous treasures and graces that our Lord had promised them. How the hearts of Peter and John must have burned at the reception of the wondrous food.

    Lastly, the Apostles receiving the Body of our Lord with heartfelt gratitude and ardent love. Love is the best thanksgiving and the most beautiful effect of Holy Communion. And they remained faithful to His love, in the main, even in the most terrible hours of His Passion, which were just coming upon them. Such was the celebration of the first Holy Communion and the first Mass. What great things our Lord does in this one mystery! Without the Eucharist, we should have suddenly lost our Lord from this earth nineteen centuries ago. What could earth offer us without the Blessed Sacrament? Our souls would pine away and die in spite of all abundance of temporal things. For everything we find on earth is perishable except this Bread of Life.

And what a happiness, what an honour it is, for so many thousands of men, that they can now participate in the true and glorious priesthood of Christ! The institution of the Holy Eucharist was indeed the dawn of a new life and happiness for Heaven and earth. How shall we ever be able to thank our Lord enough for it? This most holy of all the Sacraments ought in very truth to be the centre and magnet of our thoughts and hearts, indeed of our whole lives.

“ O precious, magnificent, saving banquet, replete with every delight! By it sins are cleansed away, virtues increased, the mind is enriched with the abundance of all graces.” (St. Antoninus). 

 A spiritual and interior person finds in the partaking of the Body of Christ Jesus twelve excellent fruits: fortitude to forsake easily earthly and perishable things; progress in things relating to salvation and perfection; elevation of the soul above whatever is outside of God; strength to practise good; enlightenment of the understanding more perfectly to know God and all things which are seen in the mirror of eternity; fervour of love for God; fulfilment of those things which beget happiness; a treasure of wealth; a constant cheerfulness of spirit; a certain secure firmness; perfect peace; union of the soul with God (Tauler).

Colloquy. --- Enliven and increase my faith, most loving Jesus, increase it unceasingly; strengthen my hope and confidence, Enkindle and inflame my love. O Jesus, the life and delight of my soul! How unutterable is the love wherewith Thou didst love me! Who am I, and who art Thou, that Thou dealest with so great love and mercy towards me? O love incomprehensible! O most sweet Jesus, how shall I live if I live not for Thee? O Lord, the principle, the support, the end of my life! Grant, I beseech Thee, dear Jesus, that I may live for Thee alone --- “Amorem tui solum” --- that I may live from this day, henceforth, united to Thee, that I may live through Thee and for Thee, to the glory and joy of Thy Sacred Heart.

Assist me, most kind Lord, that I may prove my love for Thee indeed, and may ever derive from Holy Communion abundant fruit of sanctification. This is my whole desire, that my heart may be united to Thee. O that with Thy Presence Thou wouldst set me all on fire, burn and transform me into Thyself, that I may be made one spirit with Thee by the grace of internal union and by the melting of ardent love.

(Ack.'Meditation on the Passion', compiled by Rev Reginald Walsh O.P. --- published by Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, London, in 1922)

Monday, 8 March 2021

'Meditation on the Passion - the Supper at Simon's House'

 

                                                         
                    'Christ's Agony in the Garden' by Andrea Mantegna (c1460)

 'Meditation on the Passion', compiled from Various Sources, with an Introduction by Rev. Reginald Walsh, O.P. , and published by Burns, Oates, & Washbourne Ltd., London, in 1922.

In his introduction Father Walsh writes, 'It is hoped that they who love to contemplate and consider what the Word Incarnate suffered for their salvation will find this work useful. Here, in passing, we may say that the Meditation now presented to all, was in its first shape designed and destined for private circulation only.

A Member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as Mistress of Novices for about thirty years, had gained great experience in the formation of religious as well as in the varied requirements of conventual life, proposed by means of this book to impart to her Sisters the fruit of her own reflections on the Passion, which one so spiritual and enlightened was exceptionally fitted to compile.

As might have been anticipated, the excellence of the work, which she had intended for the use of her Sisters, in course of time became known to several persons in one or other way connected with the Institute of the Blessed Virgin. And among them, some are of opinion that this treasure should no longer be allowed to remain almost hidden in the cloister. They have represented that outside the convents of the Institute there are many devout souls to whom the Meditation would be most acceptable. In accordance with their suggestion, and in compliance with their wish, it is now reprinted.

But in order to increase its utility, so far as persons living in the world are concerned, many passages in the work, as it appeared at first, have been omitted---- those, namely, which were addressed to nuns as such; also some other incidental clauses have been either omitted or else slightly changed.

That the book may continue to be a help to advancement in the spiritual life, and become an abundant source of blessings to a still wider circle of readers, is the earnest desire of those who have had to do with its reissue.'

Reginald Walsh O.P.

*****************************

These are quite long posts,  each post dealing with a particular aspect of our Lord's Passion. It will not be possible to cover every aspect on this site, but by alternating posts between this site and its 'alter ego' site 'umblepie', I hope that we can present an acceptable review of our Lord's Passion by the end of Lent. This is the second post, the first  appearing on 'umblepie' earlier this month.

               see here:-          



**********************


THE SUPPER AT SIMON'S HOUSE

(Mark xiv. 3-11 John xi. 55)

1st Prelude: History. --- St John gives us the circumstances in detail:

Feast of Pasch at hand; roads thronged with pilgrims; much talk and enquiry about our Lord, and even search for Him before His arrival at Bethany, especially on the part of the ill- disposed. The disturbance was increased by the High Priest's secret orders --- that whoever became acquainted with the whereabouts of Jesus was to give information of it in order that they might arrest Him. The Pharisees took care to make known this measure of the authorities ---”They sought therefore for Jesus; and they discoursed one with another standing in the Temple: what think you, that He is not come to the festival day? And the Chief Priests and Pharisees had given a commandment, that if any man knew where He was, he should tell, that they might apprehend Him” (John xi. 56)

Thus all preparations were made, and snares set. Jesus' obedience to the law was to lead Him into the trap. In spite of all these circumstances, clearly known to Jesus, He came to Bethany six days before the Feast of the Pasch --- that is, on the Friday before His Passion.

2nd Prelude: Composition of Place. --- Bethany, the house of our Lord's true friends. He knew He was always welcome there. (Bethany means the house of obedience --- the soul where true supernatural obedience reigns is always open to receive our Lord.) Let us keep close to our Lord and note all present --- who are for, and who are against Jesus. Mark the love of our Lord for Magdalene. And why?

3rd Prelude: Ask what I want. --- Intimate knowledge. Never weary of asking this priceless grace. Ask courage to be most faithful to our dear Lord; to conquer determinately and perseveringly human respect and every difficulty I may meet in His Divine service.

Points: I. The supper at Bethany

                       II. Disgraceful conduct of Judas

        III. Gratitude of Jesus.


I.

THE SUPPER AT BETHANY.

“The noble love of Jesus impelleth us to do great things, and exciteth us

always to desire that which is the more perfect.”

(See the persons; hear the words; note the actions. Reflect and draw profit from all.)


First, Our dear Lord and Master

 Probably, Jesus went to stay with Lazareth and spent the Sabbath there. On this Sabbath, however, He received an invitation to dine at the house of Simon the leper, who was probably a friend and neighbour of Lazarus' family, and a disciple of our Lord's. It was there then, where the banquet was held. Lazarus was amongst the guests. Martha and Mary and their attendants undertook to wait on them.

There are three important points about this feast or supper: 1) The beautiful act of Mary; 2) the disgraceful conduct of Judas; and 3) our Lord's behaviour to them both.

See Magdalene. This supper at Simon's house was remarkable for Mary's act of devotion to our Divine Lord. She brought an alabaster box of ointment of precious spikenard, and poured it on His Head as He sat at table, then on His feet. Her gift was very pleasing to our Lord for three reasons: (a) She gave of her best; (b) she gave out of pure love; (c) she gave in presence of the assembled guests, fearlessly, and knowing that men would ridicule and blame her.

Let us study this action of Mary --- “Love often knoweth no measure, but grows fervent above all measure. It can achieve anything; and it doth perform and effect many things, where he that loveth not, fainteth and falleth prostrate.” In Mary's act we note three qualities of special beauty.

      1. Her generosity. She reserved for herself the privilege of showing honour to the Divine Guest, and had bought for this purpose a pound of the purest and most costly spikenard in an alabaster box, for three hundred pence ---- about ten pounds or fifty dollars ---- as Judas, the expert, had rightly estimated. These boxes, or rather vases, were generally made with a long, slender neck sealed up, which had to be broken off when using the ointment. So Mary broke the vase, poured some on Jesus' head, and anointed His feet with the remainder. She did all that generosity could do.

      2. She reveals her loving humility, washing Jesus' feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. She shows by this not only humility, generosity, gratitude, and reverence, but her deep faith and religious veneration for Jesus. One does not treat a mere man in this manner, but God alone.

      3. It was an act of homage shown to Him as God --- Who can fathom the fervour, love, and devotion with which she did it? The house, St John tells us, was filled with the odour of the ointment --- a figure of the effect of love and generosity on the soul. I can model my daily life on this example --- “Love when wearied is not tired; when straitened is not constrained; when frightened is not disturbed; but like a vivid flame and a burning torch, it mounts upwards, and securely passes through all.”

        It says, O my God, my Love, Thou art all mine, and I am all Thine. Lord Jesus, enlarge Thou me in love, that I may learn to taste with the interior mouth of the heart how sweet it is to love, and to be dissolved and to bathe in love. O Jesus, my dear Master, what marvellous, what divine mercy and love Thou dost show to me! How good Thou art to look on me and permit me to belong to Thee. And --- lest, perhaps, I might doubt whether it be allowed to me, a wretched creature, to aspire to a place in Thy Divine Heart --- Thou hast commanded me to love Thee, And shall I not, O most sweet Jesus, love Thee? Shall I not hold Thee supremely dear? Yes, O dear Lord, with all my heart will I love Thee. All that I am, all that I possess, all I desire in this world, is Thy love and Thy grace, and I am rich enough, I have nothing more to ask --- Amorem Tui solum!

          Mary, Mother of Divine love, Mother of Jesus, turn thine eyes of mercy towards me. O Mary Immaculate! Make my heart like unto thine, then I shall be able to see Jesus, and from seeing Him, to know and love Him. Mother, I have need of thee. Give me to Jesus!


'Mary Magdalene washes the feet of Jesus' by Bida.

II

DISGRACEFUL CONDUCT OF JUDAS

“Where a man seeketh himself, there he falleth from love”

Note the behaviour of Judas. His conduct on this occasion forms an unworthy, nay a disgraceful contrast to Mary's. The love and religious veneration shown by her to our Lord annoys him, he considers it unfounded and excessive.

It is nothing but hypocrisy, when he says that the ointment would have procured alms for the poor --- “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” “Now, he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.” (John xii. 5-6). Judas' words were prompted by a low, mean disposition, indifference, unbelief, and aversion to our Saviour; he murmurs, reproves, and calls it senseless waste: “To what purpose was this waste?” (Matt.xvi. 8). It was pure covetousness and a desire of theft. Judas kept the money given to our Lord and His disciples for the poor, and stole from the bag; he only wished Mary had given the price of the ointment, because he might have kept a part or the whole of it for himself. Judas makes himself the mouthpiece of discontent, and disguises his ill-humour under a hypocritical semblance of charity. Mercenary, covetous, crafty, coarse, and selfish, his heart had remained impervious to the teachings and the influence of Jesus; all the holiness and love of Jesus had not altered him--- he hardened his heart against grace and remained unsubdued by the goodness of God.

Our Lord cannot bear anyone to be unjustly accused, and now He takes Magdalene's part: “Let her alone,” He says, “she has wrought a good work upon Me. For the poor you have always with you; but Me you have not always She is come beforehand to anoint My body for the burial.” Did Magdalene understand our Lord's words? It is certain she did not. For she and the other holy women went to the Tomb in order to anoint the body of Jesus. Did she know that the Sacred body of our Lord would be dead before the fragrance of her spikenard had left it? A penitent like Mary gets very near the Sacred Heart --- “Blessed is he, who,” like her, “knows what it is to love Jesus, and to despise himself for the love of Jesus,”

Picture to yourself our Lord's feelings as Judas uttered these words:

Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” See the indignation of Peter, John, and the other disciples, as they hear the words of Judas. What would I have felt had I had been present, and known and loved our Lord as these faithful, devoted servants loved Him? What would I have done?

 I do well to ask, have I ever acted in a like disloyal manner towards my Divine Master? What atonement have I made--- what loving reparation for my insincerity in His service? What ought I to do? What have I to say to Him now?

Colloquy. --- O my dear Lord, how often I have been disloyal and most ungrateful to Thee. Have pity on me, my Jesus, pardon the past. Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me Thy true and devoted servant --- that is my one desire. O Jesus, Master, kindle in my heart the fire which Thou camest to cast on earth, that I may love Thee more ardently, that I may be more perfectly conformed to Thee, that I may follow Thee more closely.

O Mother of Jesus, I implore of thee to cover me with the mantle of thy Immaculate purity, that so I may be able to love thy Divine Son more absolutely.

Renew me wholly, I entreat thee, my dear Mother; help me to get rid of my slothful, ungenerous, cowardly spirit; win for me, O my Mother, a fulness of the Holy Spirit, that He may cleanse my heart, and inflame it with an ever-increasing, an ever-glowing love --- ever cheerful --- a love that will never suffer me to grow sluggish; but urge me on strongly and gently to a more perfect imitation of thyself, who art the Mother of divine love, and my own dear Mother too. O Mother, be propitious to me --- give me Jesus.

Enlighten me, O good Jesus, with the brightness of eternal light, and cast out all darkness from the dwelling of my heart. Lift up my heart to Thee, and suffer me not to wander from Thee. Be Thou, my Jesus, my Blessed Lord and Master; be Thou alone pleasing to me, henceforth for evermore. Turn into bitterness for me all carnal consolation; make me, Lord Jesus, a true and loyal servant --- ready to suffer and die for Thee.

III

GRATITUDE OF JESUS

“ I know Mine and Mine know me”

Notice the gratitude of the Heart of Jesus. A little box of ointment poured on His feet earns for the donor a commemoration of her gift wherever the Gospel shall be preached in the whole world --- “Amen I say to you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done shall be told for a memory of her” (Matt.xxvi. 13)

And not only this: it obtains for her also many graces on earth and great glory in Heaven. There is no-one so grateful as Jesus Christ; no-one who will reward with such divine generosity everything done from love of Him. Nothing will be forgotten, nothing is too small to be noticed and richly recompensed by Him --- our dear Lord!

Let me watch and try to understand our Lord's love for souls wholly devoted to Him.

First, Jesus takes Mary's part against Judas: “Let her alone, why do you molest her?” (John xii. 7) “Our God is a faithful God” --- He will always stand by those who are devoted to Him. I have nothing to fear from my enemies --- the devil, the world, or my own evil inclinations, if I am devoted to Him like Mary.

Secondly, Jesus expressly declares that she has wrought a good work upon Him, and proves it by refuting the objection made on behalf of the poor --- “The poor you have always with you; but Me you have not always.” Jesus is poor and stands far above all other poor; indeed, it is only for His sake that people do good to them, and now it is the very time to perform good works for Him, since He is about to go away, whilst the poor never leave us. Jesus develops from this last thought a very touching motive to account for Mary's action in His regard. She has anointed Him for His burial as the Evangelists, St Mathew and St Mark, plainly tell us.

It appears that Mary did not know the deep meaning of this anointing beforehand. At all events her loving heart in this matter obeyed the inspiration of Providence.

The manner in which Mary and Judas are represented in this incident affords us matter for deep thought and earnest consideration. How different, how entirely opposite, are the paths they tread! Where did they both begin and where do they end?

Judas, the Apostle, chosen friend and companion of Jesus --- now an unbeliever, a thief, and a traitor. Magdalen, a poor sinner notorious for her evil life, now the generous disciple of Jesus, glowing with love for Him! Alas, how often it happens that while some rise from the lowest depth to holiness, others fall from Heaven to hell! How great reason we all have to dread and distrust our own inconstant nature, and to strive earnestly to keep close to our Lord and our Immaculate Mother. See how gently, calmly, and with what moderation Jesus defends His own cause and Mary's against this base man and his reproach.

What did Judas deserve? Yet how quietly and tenderly Jesus speaks! Calvary and the sepulchre are ever present to Him, and yet how patient, how loving, how large-hearted Jesus is in His dealings with the traitor! Oh tender, compassionate Heart of Jesus, make my heart like to Thine! What precious lessons Jesus, my Divine Master, here gives me.

Colloquy--- What have I to say to our Lord? What would I have said and done had I been present? Let me offer Jesus all the love and sympathy of my heart and beg courage, strength of will, and fidelity to Him, under all circumstances, till death. Remember, love is proved by deeds. How true a friend Jesus is to His own! Shall I not, like Magdalene, be true to Him --- give of my best; give fearlessly and from purest love?

Ask this grace from the loving heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary ---- “Mother, I have need of thee!”

(to be continued)


(from 'Meditation on the Passion' compiled from various sources by Rev Reginald Walsh O.P. and published by Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, London, 1922)