From the Priest-In-Charge of Sarum St. Martin’s
Maundy Thursday - Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Tonight we begin to live in Sacred Time. The three days of the Easter Triduum are the balance point of the whole year; all time leads up to this sacred time and all time flows from these days. This is because Jesus, the Lord God of Israel, in and through his bodily sacrifice reconciles the whole of Creation to God Most High, and thereby makes possible our continued existence. This sacred time begins tonight and concludes on the Third Day; one continuous action of God which gives us His life, renewed life, the foretaste of heaven here on earth.
We come tonight to stand in the Upper Room and in the Garden of Gethsemane where, as Jesus prays, we recall how our first parents walked with God in the cool of the evening in that other perfect Garden and in this image we long to have that same intimacy with God, but know that our sinfulness makes this impossible, and we grieve.
Sunday by Sunday the Church recalls the events of this night. Day by Day the Church takes bread as did her Lord, she gives thanks, she says the blessing and then recalls His words; “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you”. And then she takes a cup of wine & water and again give thanks, again she says the blessing and again recalls His words; “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”. The Church, you & me, tonight stand & kneel with Mary and the Apostles in the Upper Room. With them we are amazed and astonished as Our Lord reveals himself as both High Priest and Lamb of Sacrifice. With them we are transported to the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem and there see our perfect High Priest pouring out His own life blood, sprinkling it over the Mercy Seat above the Ark of the Covenant, the corners of the altar and up and across the Great Veil to cleanse and consecrate the Holy Place so that He can come forth bringing with him the only means for all humanity to walk once more with God Most High in the Garden in the cool of the evening, that is His perfect sacrifice made once for all and now made present for us under forms of bread & wine.
This Jesus, our perfect High Priest and unblemished Lamb of God, has united Himself to each one of us in baptism. So now He unites Himself to us in Holy Communion. As He unites us with Himself in consecrated bread & wine so He heals the infirmities of our souls and thus makes it possible for us to stand before God the Father, God Most High, confident in Christ. And as we stand before God and know Him in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit we want nothing more than to be with Him and to serve Him. So it is that with Jesus we wrap a towel around ourselves and wash the feet of those in need so that we may show the love of God given us in Jesus.
For these three days we live in sacred time, a time of one continuous loving action of God to bring us back to Him as He always desired. By ourselves this cannot be achieved. Only by His Divine action can our life be renewed, can we be reconciled, can we know the atonement that Jesus our perfect High Priest & unblemished Lamb of God makes for us in this sacred time. We must spend these sacred days in expectant hope of the new life that Jesus comes to give.
Let it be so, Lord. Amen
The Liturgy of Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
“You know nothing”, said Caiaphas silencing the Sanhedrin as they discussed this upstart rabbi from Nazareth, “nothing at all. Do you not know that it is better for one man to die for the people?” And so in his office of High Priest Caiaphas, unknowingly, prophesied the action of God Most High. Indeed, it is better for one man to die for the people; for that one man is no upstart rabbi, He is Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, the true High Priest of the Temple, the unblemished Lamb of God which is to be sacrificed to bring about the atonement of the people with God. So, the saving action of God continues through these sacred days.
Jesus has been arrested in the Garden and brought bound to the house of Annas and thence to Caiaphas. Bound and unresisting, questioned and vilified, struck in the face and spat upon! The leaders of Israel pour upon the head of Jesus all their hatred of Him and of life, and in their sinfulness place that sin upon the head of the sinless one who, unanswering accepts this sin and carries it bound to Pilate, to Herod and back to Pilate. At each step of his journey Jesus takes more and more of the sin of the people upon his head as their anger and hatred is given vent. Jesus truly becomes the sin-bearer of Israel, the true High Priest who must enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple carrying the sins of the people upon his breast, there to stand before God Most High and plead for their forgiveness, our forgiveness. Jesus is finally brought back to Pilate who presents him to the people with the words ‘Ecce Homo’, ‘Behold, the man!’ Indeed, Behold the Man; mocked by soldiers, dressed in a red robe by Herod, crowned with thorns. Indeed, Behold the Man, and with eyes of faith see no victim, see rather the Holy One of Israel come to fulfil the Law and the Prophets and complete the Temple Sacrifices in the supreme sacrifice upon the cross.
The Jews continue to cry ‘Crucify’, Pilate abandons any attempt to release Him. He is now apparently alone, though in reality He is surrounded by the angels of God and goes to His death in the Unity of Love which is the Holy Trinity.
The ritual sacrifices of the Temple existed to cleanse creation of its sin and to bring humanity once more into union with God. For a thousand years the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement to make that place pure of sin by offering the sacrifice of goats and then to bring into our world the life of heaven. In this way and in that place the Covenant of God with humanity was renewed. Year by year this renewal had to be renewed, but now in Jesus the renewal of humanity is accomplished for all time. After this day no longer would the blood of bulls and goats and lambs be needed for in His Blood shed upon the altar of the cross Jesus brought the bloody sacrifices of animals to an end. To sacrifice means to give up utterly what is sacrificed to God. In his death upon the cross Jesus, the Son of God gives up utterly His life to God the Father so that he cries out, “It is accomplished” and then “gave up his spirit”. And with His death dies also the sin of the people which He had borne upon his breast and carried, like the cross beam of His cross, out of the city to a place where it too could be rendered dead. With the death of Jesus upon the Cross of Calvary sin is destroyed; the power of sin is set at nought; we are set free from our slavery to warped desires and are brought back to God.
On this Good Friday as we meditate upon the sacrifice of Jesus upon the altar of the Cross, whose blood cleanses once and for all the Holy of Holies, we should know that life is about to burst out of that darkened place. With the apostles we stand and weep and beat our breasts for Our Lord is hanging dead upon the cross. Yet, we must not despair, for from this Holy Place, Golgotha and “a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried ..... they laid Jesus there”, the unblemished Lamb of Sacrifice, from this Holy Place will our true High Priest come forth bringing the New Life that each year the old High Priest brought out of the Holy of Holies. Only this time, now, the New Life that Jesus brings will never need to be renewed for He who is God made man has made the final bloody sacrifice. So wait, wait with expectation for surely the same Lord whom you have seen laid in a “new tomb” will come forth bringing new life.
The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night
Wait; wait in expectation, for the Lord God will surely come!
For three days of sacred time we have had this prayer on our hearts, in our souls, playing on our lips: ‘Come Lord Jesus and do not delay!’ Who knows the secrets of eternal life; who can make our reconciliation with God Most High; who can be our atonement, but you and you alone. ‘Come Lord Jesus and do not delay!’ And indeed He has not!
“On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared”. Expecting what? a sealed tomb, a dead body, a lost hope. They went anxiously not expectantly. They went sadly not joyfully. All hope all expectation extinguished on Good Friday. They came therefore to perform the last offices at “the first sign of dawn”. They had followed Jesus for three years; they had shared meals with Him, enjoyed the hospitality of others with Him, had been sent out by Him and had amazingly cast out devils in His name. And yet, they still did not know Him. They had listened to His teaching, heard Him prophecy His death even argued with him about it, but they had simply not understood. How could they? What He was saying was fantastical. ‘The Son of Man must die and on the third day rise again’; ‘This is my Body ... This is my Blood’. Words never before heard; meanings beyond comprehension. So, ‘at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb’.
Dawn was indeed breaking, but not a dawn like any other since the Cosmos began. The sun, helios, would rise in the eastern sky to bathe the world in light. But the greater Son, Jesus the Son of God, had already risen to flood the cosmos in a light that would never dim, never need to rise day by day. “At the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb”.
Our journey in sacred time has reached its climax: these three days filled with the saving action of God Most High are now made whole. Jesus, the True High Priest, had been bound and prepared for death. Jesus, the True High Priest, had had poured on His head the sins of the people. Jesus, the True High Priest has sprinkled His own blood, the blood of the unblemished Lamb of God around the altar of the cross. And now, “At the first sign of dawn” Jesus brings forth from the Tomb the New Life that God Most High desires to bestow upon the people, upon us. The Old Covenant has now been completed; the Law and the Prophets have now been fulfilled; the Temple no longer avails anything. In Jesus, and in Him alone is now the Temple, is now the Law and the Prophets, is now the New Covenant sealed in His blood guaranteed until the ending of the cosmos by the saving action of God through this sacred time.
“At the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb” and from there to the whole world proclaiming that Jesus IS risen from the dead and that those whom He unties with Himself in baptism and feeds with Himself in the Eucharist will for all time know the life that is the New Covenant, true life here on earth, a foretaste of heaven.
Wait in expectation, for the Lord God will surely come! He has. Greet Him, know Him, love Him, serve Him, be Him and LIVE!