The Collect, the Opening Prayer, at Mass on Sunday had the Church pray for something quite extraordinary and remarkable.
Almighty ever-living God,
constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,
that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism
may, under your protective care, bear much fruit
and come to the joys of life eternal.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
For myself, I tend to think of the Paschal Mystery as something which is about Jesus, about his Passion, Death, Rising and Ascension. These events in his life are source of salvation for us, of course, but I had not really thought of the Paschal Mystery – as the Collect has us ask – being accomplished within us.
Yet, of course, it is. St Paul writes powerfully of our dying and rising in Christ. The Collect takes it a wonderful and and moving step forward, asserting that he also dies and rises in us.
The intimacy and communion shared with us by the Risen Lord is extraordinary. And it leads us to life beyond what we can conceive, but is his free gift.
Christ and his Church together make up the “whole Christ” (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity:
- Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does “head and members” mean? Christ and the Church. (St Augustine)
- Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself. (Pope St Gregory)
- Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person. (St Thomas Aquinas)
- A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church 795
Isn’t it a wonder!
- Wherein are you like Christ? And where can you see yourself in him?
- Wherein are you unlike? How might his ministry help you continue to grow?
Neonian Baptistery, Ravenna.
There are five Easter Prefaces that can be used with the Eucharistic Prayers during the Eater season.
The following one was used in St John’s Wood last Sunday – and perhaps in your church too – it’s title indicates the enormous theme it approaches:
The restoration of the universe through the Paschal Mystery
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
at all times to acclaim you, O Lord,
but in this time above all to laud you yet more gloriously,
when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.
For, with the old order destroyed,
a universe cast down is renewed,
and integrity of life is restored to us in Christ.
Therefore, overcome with paschal joy,
every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory,
as they acclaim:
Easter is certainly not just about Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies! Nor is it ‘just’ about the rising of Jesus from the dead – or at least there is much more to the rising of Jesus from the dead than an event in the history of one man.
The Resurrection is one might say a ‘game-changer’ or at least it reveals the nature of the game that is being played: the salvation of the world – of humankind and all creation.
This is no matter of personal devotion or private religiosity. It is much more, and it is at our peril that we allow the Resurrection to be domesticated in our prayer, our worship, our theology.
- Where is the power of God’s salvation needed in your life?
- In your community?
- In our world?
Photographs of the 15th Station, Lourdes. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.
The second reading at Sunday’s Mass Comes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This particular passage is believed to be Paul quoting the text of an early Christian hymn.
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.
The readings of his Sunday anticipate the celebration of the Paschal Mystery which finds its richest expression in the liturgy of the Triduum.
However we hear these readings and celebrate the Paschal Mystery knowing what Jesus’ first companions had still to learn – what rising from the dead means.
This hymn from the Letter to the Philippians presents us with a fine summary of it all. It preserves the narrative of the incarnation of the Son of God, the Passion, and the Resurrection, but in a spam brief enough that to read of one is to anticipate or still recall the other ‘moments’ or ‘dimensions’ of God with us in Jesus.
And it calls us to praise and thanksgiving. As is often said the liturgy even of Good Friday is not a funeral service. The Church in the West may not sing alleluia, and the Church East and West may not celebrate Mass, but we remember the Passion knowing he is risen, and that he is Lord and in him we are safe and secure. We sing praise Palm Sunday and Good Friday albeit in somewhat quieter tones, sorrowing at the pain endured by the Son of God for us. A pain imposed, we know, by the likes of us.
Image of the resurrected Christ, Abbey of Lerins, France. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.
The second reading at tomorrow’s Mass, that of the 3rd Sunday of the Year, somewhat starkly encourages us to recognise that we are creatures, passing things.
Brothers: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
What prevents this from being simply a sobering and probably upsetting or nihilistic reminder of our mortality is, of course, its context. The reading is part of a ritual action which is a memorial, an active remembering, of the Paschal Mystery, the Easter Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.
And Paul, above all the other writers of the New Testament, knew how those who are ready to die in Christ will rise with him. Our lives are characterised by a dying so that in our dying we might live for ever.
Detail from the Church of all Nations, Gethsemane, Jerusalem. (C) 2013, Allen Morris.