Taste and See: the living of love

 

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Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Saviour to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The Collect for Palm Sunday reminded of Christ’s coming to be with us so we might be with him, and for ever.

The opportunities are many this week for us to attend afresh to the lesson Christ gives, so as to benefit from the victory he wins.

Let us make the most of them by attending the services of Holy Week, preparing for them, and allowing some time of quiet reflection after them.

Detail of Crucifix. Albaicin, Granada, Spain. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: humble and reigning Lord

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His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

This Canticle is one we hear as our Second reading at Mass tomorrow. And it reappears in one form or another again and again in Holy Week.

It offers a very simple, very affective, account of the Paschal Mystery  – Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

It draws us into a fresh appreciation of this – and invites us to honour Christ anew, and know once more the power of he himself and his work for our lives.

A perfect introduction to Holy Week…

  • For what will you pray this Holy Week?
  • What steps might you take to free yourself to take full part in the Liturgies of this Great Week?

Stained Glass. Holy Trinity, Stratford upon Avon. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: God with us and for us

Crucifix, Lisieux 2

The second reading on Sunday, the hymn from the Letter to the Philippians reminds us of the holiness of the one we have at the centre of our gaze this week: Jesus, fully human, fully divine.

In his humanity achieving all we have not: in his divinity manifesting to us divine love and our ultimate goal.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

We have busy lives and the business will impinge on our keeping of these coming Holy Days unless we are determined to keep it at bay.

What liturgies will you be able to attend in these days? And what time can you keep free and quiet before and after for preparation and reflection.

Good luck! Let’s pray for one another…

Detail of crucifix. Lisieux Cathedral. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Broken with us

Santa Croce crucifix

The Psalm for Palm Sunday draws us into an articulation of the agony of Christ – a physical, emotional and psychic agony. It is also a psalm that finds its end in a confession of faith and an assurance of community and communion in God.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him if this is his friend.’

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
I can count every one of my bones.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

They divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel’s sons.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 21:8-9,17-20,23-24

The Lord who suffers for us, also serves us as model for dealing with our sufferings.

It is our whole self, and all our experiences, that we are invited to bring to our fellowship with him in this coming week, this Holy Week.

Crucifix based on the image in the Holy Shroud. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Loving Lord

Way of the Cross. Lincoln

Sunday is Palm Sunday or, as termed in the Missal, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

The day marks the Resurrection – as does every Sunday – and this Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, most particularly Jesus’ joyful entry into Jerusalem which began that fateful and saving week in which our salvation was won.

In addition to the opening Gospel which reminds of the entry into Jerusalem, teh hear a longer extract from Luke’s Gospel which treats of the Passion.

There are two versions authorised for use, the shorter, which is given here, and the longer which seems to be the most commonly used.

The elders of the people and the chief priests and scribes rose, and they brought Jesus before Pilate.

They began their accusation by saying, ‘We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.’ Pilate put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’ he replied. Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no case against this man.’ But they persisted, ‘He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judaea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.’ When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.

Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. ‘You brought this man before me’ he said ‘as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since is he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, So I shall have him flogged and then let him go.’ But as one man they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us Barabbas!’ (This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.)

Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ And for the third time he spoke to them, ‘Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go’ But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.

Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, “Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”; to the hills, “Cover us.” For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?’ Now with him they were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.
When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.
The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’

It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ With these words he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said, ‘This was a great and good man.’ And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.

All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.

Luke 23:1-49

In the Passion Narrative there are many moments that can detain us in meditation, reflection and prayer.

The devotional tradition of the Stations of the Cross lead us in both meditation and a journey ourselves. Our sometimes shuffled, sometimes stately, procession stands in stark contrast to the experience of Jesus. Even when the Stations are expanded into a Passion Play what we do fall far, far short of the reality and its horror. Yet these echoes of what was done and which Jesus endured help us to know afresh the active love of God for us, and the pains to which he goes to win us.

  • What space will we make to keep Holy Week holy?
  • What will help us to attend the liturgies? What might keep us from them?
  • Who else might we encourage to come to the liturgies? Why?
  • What sorrows, what joys will we ourselves bring to the celebrations of suffering and mercy?

Marquetry showing Jesus carrying of the Cross from Lincoln Cathedral. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: the nearness of the Lord

The shroud

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Lent, is one great assurance from Paul that his life finds its entire meaning from Christ – Christ is to be his entire future; the challenge and joy of his present, and the trajectory on which his past – what was good in it and what bad – has launched him.

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith.

All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won.

All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:8-14

Next week – beginning on Palm Sunday – we have the opportunity of spending quality time with the Lord.

Of course the Lord is with us always and everywhere, for nothing can separate us from him. But in the Liturgy of Holy Week we have the privilege of being drawn into extended times of contemplation and adoration of him in the peak moments of his public ministry – in the events of the Last Supper, of the Passion, of the time amongst the dead and in the glory of the Resurrection.

 

Image from the Shroud. (Taken from replica on display at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome). (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Lord we adore…

Altar St Trophime, Arles 2014The second reading at Sunday’s Mass  was taken from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

We spend much time in the company of Jesus over this Holy Week

We experience his love and power in the sacraments, in the readings from scripture and in private prayer and reflection.

How do you best know Jesus?

  • In his frailty as a human being?
  • In the glory of the resurrection?
  • Alone?
  • Or together with his disciples, and those others who come to him to find themselves?
  • What images of Jesus most appeal to you?
    And which are the more challenging or ‘alien’?
  • What might you learn from how you know him?

Bring what you have learnt to God in prayer?

Altar in the church of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Lord’s gift of life

Palm Sunday Arles 2014

The Gospel read at the Commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem, at the beginning of our celebration of Palm Sunday, is worth hearing again…

When they were approaching Jerusalem, in sight of Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go off to the village facing you, and as soon as you enter it you will find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, “What are you doing?” say, “The Master needs it and will send it back here directly”.’

They went off and found a colt tethered near a door in the open street. As they untied it, some men standing there said, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They gave the answer Jesus had told them, and the men let them go.

Then they took the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on its back, and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, others greenery which they had cut in the fields. And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heavens!’

Mark 11:1-10

Jesus’ enters Jerusalem  surrounded by praise and joy. He will leave the city some few days later beaten, bleeding, spat upon, exhausted.

Our  comings and goings in this life can be marked by similar reversals, and even if (thank God!) they are not often of such extreme passions.

By God’s grace, though, our coming into being, into life, is gift to the world. (Though it is tragic to know how often the  gift is spurned, and how often – in all sorts of circumstances and all through life – the world turns its back on the potential and wonder of every human life.)

By God’s grace, too, our passing from this life is intended to be always a passing into the glory of eternal communion with God and neighbour. (Though we need always to seek to do what we can to receive and live that gift.)

The entry to Jerusalem and all that Christ endures in the days that follow is gift to win us for life. Our praise this week may be muted by recognition of all that was, and is, necessary to save us, but praise it must be.

  • For what, in particular, will you give thanks this Holy Week?

Carved capital in the Cloister of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: call us to silence…

Chapel, LerinsThe Gospel this Sunday is the Passion narrative from the Gospel of Mark.

It was two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread, and the chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by some trick and have him put to death. For they said, ‘It must not be during the festivities, or there will be a disturbance among the people.’

Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper; he was at dinner when a woman came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the ointment on his head. Some who were there said to one another indignantly, ‘Why this waste of ointment? Ointment like this could have been sold for over three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor’; and they were angry with her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her? What she has done for me is one of the good works. You have the poor with you always, and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She has done what was in her power to do: she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout all the world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.’

Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, approached the chief priests with an offer to hand Jesus over to them. They were delighted to hear it, and promised to give him money; and he looked for a way of betraying him when the opportunity should occur.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he arrived with the Twelve. And while they were at table eating, Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me, one of you eating with me.’ They were distressed and asked him, one after another, ‘Not I, surely?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the Twelve, one who is dipping into the same dish with me. Yes, the Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’
And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’

After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all lose faith, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered, however after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said, ‘Even if all lose faith, I will not.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you solemnly, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’ But he repeated still more earnestly, ‘If I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And they all said the same.

They came to a small estate called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I pray.’ Then he took Peter and James and John with him. And a sudden fear came over him, and great distress. And he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here, and keep awake.’ And going on a little further he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by. ‘Abba (Father)!’ he said ‘Everything is possible for you. Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you, not I, would have it.’ He came back and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Had you not the strength to keep awake one hour? You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came back and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy; and they could find no answer for him. He came back a third time and said to them, ‘You can sleep on now and take your rest. It is all over. The hour has come. Now the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is close at hand already.’

Even while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came up with a number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the traitor had arranged a signal with them. ‘The one I kiss,’ he had said ‘he is the man. Take him in charge, and see he is well guarded when you lead him away.’ So when the traitor came, he went straight up to Jesus and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The others seized him and took him in charge. Then one of the bystanders drew his sword and struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.

Then Jesus spoke. ‘Am I a brigand’ he said ‘that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I was among you teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me. But this is to fulfil the scriptures.’ And they all deserted him and ran away. A young man who followed him had nothing on but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the cloth in their hands and ran away naked.

They led Jesus off to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes assembled there. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the high priest’s palace, and was sitting with the attendants warming himself at the fire.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus on which they might pass the death sentence. But they could not find any. Several, indeed, brought false evidence against him, but their evidence was conflicting. Some stood up and submitted this false evidence against him, ‘We heard him say, “I am going to destroy this Temple made by human hands, and in three days build another, not made by human hands.”’ But even on this point their evidence was conflicting. The high priest then stood up before the whole assembly and put this question to Jesus, ‘Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you?’ But he was silent and made no answer at all. The high priest put a second question to him, ‘Are you the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus ‘and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his robes, ‘What need of witnesses have we now?’ he said. ‘You heard the blasphemy. What is your finding?’ And they all gave their verdict: he deserved to die.
Some of them started spitting at him and, blindfolding him, began hitting him with their fists and shouting, ‘Play the prophet!’ And the attendants rained blows on him.

While Peter was down below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s servant-girls came up. She saw Peter warming himself there, stared at him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it. ‘I do not know, I do not understand, what you are talking about’ he said. And he went out into the forecourt. The servant-girl saw him and again started telling the bystanders, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ But again he denied it. A little later the bystanders themselves said to Peter, ‘You are one of them for sure! Why, you are a Galilean.’ But he started calling down curses on himself and swearing, ‘I do not know the man you speak of.’ At that moment the cock crew for the second time, and Peter recalled how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’ And he burst into tears.

First thing in the morning, the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’ he answered. And the chief priests brought many accusations against him. Pilate questioned him again, ‘Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you!’ But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.

At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate the customary favour, Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?’ For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. Then Pilate spoke again. ‘But in that case,’ he said to them ‘what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ ‘Why?’ Pilate asked them ‘What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together. They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes.

They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charge against him read: ‘The King of the Jews.’ And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’ The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.

When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah.’ Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying; ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.’

There were some women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome. These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And there were many other women there who had come up to Jerusalem with him.

It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day (that is, the vigil of the sabbath), there came Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, summoned the centurion and enquired if he was already dead. Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted the corpse to Joseph who bought a shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joset were watching and took note of where he was laid.

Tradition, supported by the most recent scholarship, says that the Gospel of Mark was written by a disciple of St Peter, basing the narrative in large part on the memoirs of Peter. It was written in Rome and written particular for the encouragement of Christians in Rome who had denied their baptism and their Christian faith during a time of persecution.

In this Passion narrative the ‘head’ of the Church in Rome, Peter himself betrays Jesus. Singled out by Jesus as one whose actions will be recalled, where ever the Good News is shared, is a nameless woman, in memory of her (surely a direct verbal link to the command to celebrate the memorial of the Last Supper in memory of him, a command omitted in Mark’s Gospel but quoted elsewhere in the tradition of the institution of the Eucharist ). It is women who distinguish themselves among his followers by being present, albeit at a distance, at the Cross.

Mark is not an iconoclastic gospel, but it refuses to make varnish away the scratches and flaws. It especially refuses to show discipleship as an easy and inevitable ‘way of life’. It is something to be chosen and chosen again despite confusion fear and error. The key to faithful discipleship is Jesus Christ, Son of God. If we are to follow we must allow him to lead.

  • If a particular episode in the Passion has struck you, stay with it: meditate on it, and bring the fruits of your meditation to God in prayer. Ask for the gift of faithfulness and love as you continue to live this Holy Week.

Photograph of chapel in Abbey of Lerins, France. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.