Malankara World Journal Good Friday and Gospel Saturday
Passion Week Special- 4
Volume 3 No. 134 March 27, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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We are approaching the holiest part of the church liturgical year. The Pes'ho, Good Friday, Gospel Saturday and Easter are awe-inspiring to all Christians. The Holy Week or Passion week offers us the chance to immerse ourselves in the central events of Redemption and to relive the Easter Mystery, the great Mystery of the faith.
Malankara World and Malankara World Journal provide numerous articles that explains the importance of each day of the Passion week. But the following edited quote from Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI captures the importance of these days beautifully in a nutshell:
The pope exhorted all Christians "to enter into the Cenacle with the Virgin Mary, to stand with her at the foot of the cross, to watch over the dead Christ, hopefully awaiting the bright dawn of the day of resurrection." Imagine the thoughts of the mother as she see her only son suffering on the cross? What a price to pay for our sins? To fully grasp how much the "God Loved The World" we need to understand the cross. The two processions on Good Friday Services in our church will help you grasp the passion and the victory of Jesus Christ. Please read the commentary on our Good Friday Service (before going to the service on Friday) if you haven't done so yet:
Issue 134 - Good Friday and Gospel Saturday - This issue
Issue 135 - Easter - To be released on March 28
We hope that you will be spiritually nourished and blessed during this passion week. Dr. Jacob Mathew
Third Hour (9 a.m.)
Noon (12 p.m.)
Ninth Hour (3 p.m.)
Veneration of the Holy Cross
Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Good Tidings)
Before Holy Qurbana
With all the trials and struggles of this life, we are constantly coming to the cross -- but which thief are you? Do you complain about your cross and tell God to get you out of your predicament; or do you faithfully accept whatever comes, trusting that at the end of it all, Paradise awaits you? For most of us, the characteristics of both thieves have been exhibited from time-to-time. There are good days and bad days! The goal, of course, is to always be like the good thief, accepting the cross and trusting that our Lord shares it with us and He will ultimately give us eternal joy and peace. - Jeffrey S. J. Allan
Malankara World has a supplement that provides detailed information about Passion Week including articles, prayers, sermons, etc. You will find it here:
Daily Meditations, Prayers and Reflections
Malankara World has developed a daily plan of bible readings, meditations, reflections, and prayers for Passion Week. Please click on the link below for the day to read the reflection for that day.
by Dr. Charles Stanley
What do you think about when you see a depiction of Christ on the cross? Most of us are overwhelmed by the physical and emotional suffering that He endured - the scourging, beating, thorns, nails, mocking, and shame. We are horrified at the cruelty of the Romans and the hard hearts of the Jewish rulers.
But during the crucifixion, far more was happening than the eye could see. God was carrying out His plan to rescue mankind, providing everything we need for salvation:
Jesus paid the full price of the debt we owed for transgression: death. His payment set us free from bondage to sin.
God could now release us from the punishment we deserved.
Christ’s payment satisfied the Father by fulfilling His demand for justice while letting Him forgive us.
4. Justification.On the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, the Lord now declares believers not guilty. Although we will still sin in this earthly life, our standing before God is one of righteousness. This is a legal declaration that can never be reversed.
5. Reconciliation. The sin barrier that separated us from the Father was removed by Christ’s death on our behalf. We’re now God’s children—we have open access to Him and fellowship with Him.
The crucifixion was the only way to rescue lost humanity. If there had been any other way, the cross would have been a grotesque display of divine cruelty. But because so much was at stake, it can truly be called the greatest act of love by both the Father and the Son.
Source: In Touch Ministries, Inc. © 2009 All Rights Reserved.
by Justin Holcomb
Every year on Good Friday, Christians take some time to meditate on the depth of Jesus' sacrifice for us in suffering a humiliating, bloody death by crucifixion. It's a time to dwell on what Jesus suffered for us, in all its pain and intensity, without rushing straight ahead to the good news of Easter, resurrection, and new life.
One of the ways Christians have traditionally meditated on Good Friday is by reading and reflecting on the seven last sayings of Jesus from the cross. Luke records the final words of Jesus before he died on the cross:
This passage is a moving account of Jesus' dying words. When everything was said and done, Jesus' work on the cross was all but complete, and his proclamation, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" finished the work. The significance of Jesus' statement lies in a conversation he had with religious leaders about his role in God's great plan:
No one truly took Jesus' life from him. God had given him a specific task. That task was to lay down his life on behalf of the world (John 10:18).
Just as it was Jesus' God-given task, it was also Jesus' choice to lay down his life.
When we read of Jesus before his crucifixion, the gravity of this choice becomes even more apparent. In Luke 22:39–44 Jesus spends an intense evening in prayer, wrestling with the reality of the task ahead of him. Going so far as to ask God to remove the task, to make another way, Jesus ultimately concludes that God's will must be done.
Thus, when Jesus finally declares in Luke 23:46, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" Jesus is voluntarily laying down his life. No one took it from him - in fact, when the soldiers came by to make sure the men on the crosses would die quickly, it was obvious to them that Jesus was dead already (John 19:31–37).
Jesus faced the incredible task of laying down his life as a ransom for the world. This task was traumatic and overwhelming, but Jesus accepted it willingly. After hanging on the cross for three hours, Jesus finally gave up his own life. He was not helpless at the hands of those who crucified him - he alone had the authority to end his life. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, "The Son of Man came . . . to give his life as a ransom for many." The crucifixion was Jesus' plan, and it was his plan from before creation - he's the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
But Jesus' death is still death. It is still an abomination. Though Jesus submitted, this doesn't mean everything was fine. The author of life was murdered by evil men (Acts 2:23). But Jesus yielded to the evil and injustice because he knew who was really in charge.
The story doesn't end here; there is the hope we celebrate at Easter. But for now, let's take a moment to acknowledge the suffering sacrifice of our Savior. You can give thanks to Jesus for his steadfast love and faithfulness that led him to lay down his life for you as a ransom.
About The Author:
Justin Holcomb is Theologian in Residence at Mars Hill Church, where he also serves as Executive Director of Resurgence and the Leadership Development department. He is also Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God. He and his wife, Lindsey, are the authors of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture.
Source: Christianity.com Daily Update
by Pastor Linton Smith
A few weeks ago the cover of a Time Magazine caught my eye.
It featured a photograph of two masked people and the words,
WHY THEY HATE EACH OTHER.
The article in the magazine traced the hatred back almost 1500 years!
I have not named the people the article was about because they are no exception.
Many other peoples, families and individuals hate each other just as fiercely.
What a different place our world would be if people.. if we.. forgave each other!
Alexander Pope wrote, "To err is human; to forgive is divine."
How true that is. Forgiveness is difficult. To forgive we need divine help. And that help is available - from Jesus.
He practiced forgiveness. He paid the price for our forgiveness, and He inspires and empowers us to forgive. He can help us!
JESUS PRACTICED FORGIVENESS.
Jesus amazes me. He is so forgiving.
I think of Judas. Jesus knew this man was plotting to betray him. If we had been in Jesus' shoes I suggest we would have avoided this man.. and been barely civil to him when we could not avoid him..
What did Jesus do? He took a basin and a towel.. and washed the feet of his friends. And He included Judas!
And then.. when Jesus was crucified.. we are told..
Luke 23:32-34.. Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Peter was there. He later described how Jesus behaved..
1 Peter 2:23.. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
Jesus did not retaliate. Did not seek revenge.. but entrusted Himself to God the Father who judges justly.
He did just what the Apostle Paul exhorts us to do..
Romans 12:19-21.. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
Jesus did not retaliate. He practiced forgiveness!
JESUS PAID THE PRICE FOR OUR FORGIVENESS.
A 1950's song speaks of God's willingness to forgive..
He can touch a tree and turn the leaves to gold;
Is that true? No. It is a half truth. It makes forgiveness sound easy and cheap. And it is not!
The night before He died on the cross Jesus shared a meal with His friends.
In Matthew 26:27-28 we read.. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Forgiveness of our sins came at a great cost. Jesus suffered and died and shed His blood on the cross.. to pay the price for our forgiveness.
Peter puts it like this..
1 Peter 2:24.. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
He bore our sins in His body on the tree.. on the cross. He took our place.
In Hebrews 9:27,28 we read.. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people..
Christ was sacrificed once.. to take away the sins of many people. The sacrifice had to be made. The price had to be paid.
God did not wink at our sins and say.. that is Okay.. I let you off.. no.. He is a just God… the penalty for sin must be paid.. and paid it was.. by Jesus.
And because it was.. the Apostle Paul can say..
Acts 13:38.. Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
Yes.. today.. we can be forgiven.. God will forgive us.. when we come to Him sorry for our sin and willing to change.. and confess our sin.. God will say to us, I forgive, I forgive!
Jesus paid the price for our forgiveness.
JESUS INSPIRES AND EMPOWERS US TO FORGIVE.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray. He taught them a model prayer.. we call it The Lord's Prayer. One of the things He taught us was this..
Luke 11:2,4.. When you pray, say: 'Father.. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.'
What a challenge that is. When we pray like that we link our plea for God to forgive us with our own willingness to forgive others.
Jesus wants His forgiven people to be forgiving people.
In Ephesians 4:32 Paul puts it like this.. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
And the Apostle Peter puts it like this..
1 Peter 3:9.. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
We may not feel that we can suddenly start having pleasant feelings toward a person who has hurt us badly, but there is something we can do.
We can decide not to hold a grudge.. not to hit back.. not to retaliate.. but to behave like Jesus.. and respond as He did.. with blessing. Remember how He prayed for those who crucified Him.. Father, forgive them..
One of the most used examples of forgiveness is still the best..
Corrie ten Boom had suffered the horrors of a concentration camp during World War 2. After the war she was speaking at churches in Germany. She writes..
Jesus inspired her to forgive.. and empowered her to forgive.
Let's allow Him to inspire and empower us to forgive.
What a difference it will make.. to us.. and those we forgive!
Ponder the way He practiced forgiveness. See Him on that cross.. refusing to retaliate.. but praying.. Father, forgive them..
Ponder the way He paid the price for our forgiveness. He bore your sins and mine in His body on the tree.. the penalty of our sin has been paid.. and now.. God will forgive us.. as we come to Him.. sorry.. willing to change.. and confess our sin!
Ponder the way Jesus inspires and empowers us to forgive. If we are struggling with hurt and pain.. from long ago.. or something recent..
right now.. let's tell Jesus about it.. and ask Him for His help. He will help us to let go of these feelings and empower us to respond with kindness .. just as he did Corrie ten Boom!
by Justin Holcomb
Why do we call Good Friday "good," when it is such a dark and bleak event commemorating a day of suffering and death for Jesus?
For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Paul considered it to be "of first importance" that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Rom. 6:5).
Still, why call the day of Jesus' death "Good Friday" instead of "Bad Friday" or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or "Sorrowful Friday." In English, in fact, the origin of the term "Good" is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, "God's Friday." Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God's plan to save his people from their sins.
In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus' grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.
In the same way, Good Friday is "good" because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both "just and the justifier" of those who trust in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God's gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.
The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God's forgiveness. Psalm 85:10 sings of a day when "righteousness and peace" will "kiss each other." The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God's demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God's righteousness against sin. "For the joy set before him" (Heb. 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God's reign of righteousness and peace.
Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That's why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.
About The Author:
Justin Holcomb is Theologian in Residence at Mars Hill Church, where he also serves as Executive Director of Resurgence and the Leadership Development department. He is also Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture.
Stabat Mater is the title of a thirteenth-century Latin hymn and it means "the Mother was standing." In Latin, the hymn consists of twenty couplets which describe the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin at the Cross. There are more than sixty English translations that have been made of the Stabat Mater.
At the cross her station keeping,
While she waited in her anguish,
With what pain and desolation,
Ever-patient in her yearning
Who, that sorrow contemplating,
Christ she saw, for our salvation,
Christ she saw with life-blood failing,
Mary, fount of love's devotion,
Virgin, ever interceding,
Mother, may this prayer be granted:
At the cross, your sorrow sharing,
Fairest maid of all creation,
Virgin, in your love befriend me,
Savior, when my life shall leave me,
Virgin of all virgins blest!
Let me, to my latest breath,
Wounded with His every wound,
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Savior, when my life shall leave me,
While my body here decays
Source: The Collegeville Hymnal, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1990.
by Peter Woods
Recently there has been some significant deconstruction of the grief cycle as postulated and engraved into our psyches in the last twenty years by the work of thanatologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. The headings of the Grief cycle still offer useful lenses through which to observe some of the archetypal activities and personalities playing out during Holy week. Along with the work of Kubler-Ross I have in the last few days been introduced to the themes of the classical "Ars Moriendi" - the art of dying from 15th and 16th Century Europe and so may be able to weave these into the themes as well.
Born in a time when death from Bubonic plague (Black Death) was prevalent. the Ars Moriendi, or "art of dying," is a body of Christian literature that provided practical guidance for the dying and those attending them. These manuals informed the dying about what to expect, and prescribed prayers, actions, and attitudes that would lead to a "good death" and salvation. The first such works appeared in Europe during the early fifteenth century, and they initiated a remarkably flexible genre of Christian writing that lasted well into the eighteenth century.
An article in the Christianity Today Library merges the themes of Ars Moriendi with the Seven words of Jesus from the Cross and this might just become my outline for the Three Hour Vigil on Good Friday.
The Grief Cycle Stages
Denial - Peter and the crowing cock - the "rock" that wobbled.
What to do when the ground beneath you shifts.
"I feel fine."; "This can't be happening, not to me." Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of situations and individuals that will be left behind after death.
Of course Peter was denying knowledge of Jesus, in the presence of possible hostility and exposure, but was this denial rooted in a deeper denial within Peter that was the result of the chaos he was experiencing?
In my own experiences of shock and chaos, which include being blown up by a land-mine during the bush war, motor vehicle accidents, and experiencing divorce, I have known the numbness that floods the psyche and the functionality that has one feeling that you are standing outside yourself and simply going through the motions without being fully present. Peter had been very vocal about never allowing anything bad to happen to Jesus, but now it had and he was numb. This can't be happening!
I wonder if Peter's denial of any association with Jesus was an attempt to disassociate? Disassociation is a very powerful psychological protection mechanism and I don't want to enter the Freud - Janov debate on this matter; suffice it to say, that there is a very strong pull in times of chaos to deny what is happening and extreme cases even to disassociate from the reality of what is taking place.
The first two woodcuts in the classical Ars Moriendi show what are called Temptation in the Faith and Encouragement in the Faith respectively
The first woodcut shows the Saints and sages, isolated behind the headboard, whilst the dying one is beset with a horde of tempting and fear inspiring characters.
Chaos will do that won't it?
All that we know and trust has little worth as we are overwhelmed by the experience.
The second woodcut, "Encouragement in the Faith" has the person surrounded by consoling and nurturing visitors.
Could this two stage process be a graphic illustration of Our Lord's own experience on the cross?
"My God my God why have you forsaken me?" is classically named the Cry of Dereliction, it could also be the cry of Desolation.
Jesus beset by the chaos, the pain, the loneliness, the sheer brutal horror, finds himself denying that God is present.
I insert this here, because I believe it is important that we recognise that these processes are largely unconscious. It is only one who has established a grounded spiritual practice of prayer and contemplation, who will be able, in every moment to be conscious of the inner and outer processes at work in their being and not disassociate and be overwhelmed by the demons who masquerade as realities, whilst the stable mind would know in a wink that they are illusory and ephemeral shadows on the screen of a tormented mind.
It is a great consolation for me that even Jesus had this moment of overwhelming fear!
Anger - "Father, …take this cup away from me..""Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?"
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Any individual that symbolizes life or energy is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.
Whenever I am confronted by people who insist that Jesus knew every step along the way that he was going to die as a substitutionary sacrificial lamb as his Father's will, I refer the discussion to Jesus in Gethsemane. Here we see a Jesus who is not resigned like some robot to the execution of the programmed plan. I see a young Rabbi, with dreams and trust in a Kingdom of Love that could change the world if given a chance to grow in people's hearts. The looming opposition, the sinister leaving of Judas bringing in the darkness (and it was night!), all of this brings Jesus to his knees before God and he isn't acquiescent, could he be angry?
God knows it didn't have to be this way! Jesus knows it too. For me the grappling Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane is a deeply consoling image, a transformative icon. Once again I see the move from desolation to consolation. The shift that is shown in the woodcuts at the start of this blog. From, "Take this away!" to "Let your will be done in my life". And if you thought that the movement from that desolate pole to the consoled one was easy, count the drops of sweated blood along the way!
Bargaining - Judas said, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?"
"Just let me live to see my children graduate."; "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if…"
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time…"
Judas makes a bargain. Thirty silver coins, a month's wages for a life. What makes this deal unconscionable is the fact that Judas is bargaining with someone else's life. There is the hint of the scape-goating theme here again. It is easy to bargain with the lives of others, but it is also cheap and has suicidal consequences. We can speak of Endlösung der Judenfrage (the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"), we can speak of Colateral Damage but what whatever our euphemistic name for the bargaining with the lives of others may be, we have to realize that it is never a fair exchange, and Emotional, Ethical or Soul suicide will be the real outcome of such bargaining.
In contrast, Jesus doesn't bargain at all. Not even for his own life. Is this not the ultimate challenge for the Christ follower. To be prepared to be the one who pours my life out, instead of trying to get someone else to do it in my stead? There is a business in Port Elizabeth called Q-4-U (Queue for you ) For a fee, this company will stand in line for you so that you don't have to have the unpleasant experience. It's a bargain! It makes me wonder though how many of us look at the church and the clergy as "Serve- 4 U" or "Compassionate-4-U" or "Suffer-4-U". Doesn't "vicar" mean "in place of" or "substitute"? What a bargain!
Depression - He said to Peter, "Couldn't you watch with me even one hour?"
"I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die… What's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?"
During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect oneself from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
I discovered during months of psychotherapy that depression is the leaden blanket we pull over our souls when the anxiety of reality is too hard to bear. Is this what the pre-Psychology gospel writers are trying to portray with these disciples who cannot keep awake?
They had been in the Upper Room, they had seen Jesus offering Judas the reconciling, dipped bread. They had witnessed the refusal. They must have felt the tension, the apprehension the anxiety. How much easier to pull their robes over their heads and sleep. I thank God that in the moments when this life is overwhelming and I sink into the shadow world of depression, that Jesus is still awake and praying for me and every other one who at times find living their life too much to bear. May I, in moments of clarity and calm, be prepared to sweat blood for those whose suffer mental anguish and illness.
Acceptance - "Father,… yet not my will, but yours be done."
It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."
This final stage comes with peace and understanding of the death that is approaching. Generally, the person in the fifth stage will want to be left alone. Additionally, feelings and physical pain may be non-existent. This stage has also been described as the end of the dying struggle.
The final consolation, comes here in the Garden and also on the Cross. Father into your hands I commend my spirit. Those moments when we can breathe it all out and surrender ourselves to the reality of God's consoling care. Soon enough the cycling chaos will whirl me up and down the spiral, but just for now, I rest in God and practice for the moment when my out breath will be all there is and what follows is not another in breath, but whatever the Spirit, who first gave me life, wills.
Source: I Am Listening
by Deacon Keith Fournier
Early this morning I crossed the Street and opened Saint Benedict Church in Richmond, Virginia. During my PhD coursework at Catholic University, I have had the privilege of serving this inner city parish.
Most mornings, the opening of the Church is a highlight of my morning prayer.
I walk into the darkened, beautiful Church to cascades of light coming through its elegant stained glass windows. I kneel before the Tabernacle, presiding over the sanctuary from its place of honor in the very center of the old High Altar.
Next, I visit the chapel of Saint Joseph, a special Patron for me after all these years during which I have tried to live my vocation as husband, father, worker and deacon. Joseph in his silence, obedience and fidelity has so much to teach me about fathering, husbanding, working and obeying the Savior whom he held in his arms and taught his trade. The One from whom he received such a dignified vocation in the communion of saints.
This tour through the Church while I unlock her doors for visiting pilgrims is a daily ritual which I have grown to cherish. It has often invited me into an encounter of communion with the living God. That encounter has provided the supernatural fuel I so needed to persevere in an otherwise difficult season of my life.
However, this morning was different.
Last night, we joined with the millions of Christians throughout the world in the Holy Thursday Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper. After the beautiful Liturgy, the faithful stayed in the Church to adore the most Blessed Sacrament until midnight. Then, I came across the Street and moved the Blessed Sacrament outside of the Church to a place of repose.
So, when I entered the Church on this Friday morning, it was dark, with no votive lights. The Altar was stripped and the Tabernacle was empty, with the door opened to underscore the deeply significant meaning of the events in which the faithful throughout the world will participate in our Good Friday observance.
I stayed for a while, prayed, and reflected on my service as a Deacon of the Church.
Later today, I will assist in the carrying of the Cross in the procession into this empty Church sanctuary, stripped in honor of Jesus Christ who emptied Himself for us.
However, this morning I was drawn back to a memorable Good Friday, where, serving at the side of another good priest, Father Brian Rafferty, I experienced a couple who changed my life. I also remembered the loss of my father in law, on another Good Friday, another occasion of grace for me. He was a good man whose death helped me to live life differently.
I share this reflection, the fruit of both of those experiences, with my fellow pilgrims on this Friday we call Good.
I had just carried the Cross into the waiting assembly at Christ the King Catholic Church in Norfolk, Virginia chanting three times: "This is the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world," at which the assembly responded, "Come Let us worship." Next, that cross, lodged in the arms of Father Brian Rafferty, was presented for all who had gathered to come forward and venerate. They would do so with a kiss or a profound bow, as is the ancient custom.
A frail couple approached. The wife could barely walk without her husband’s loving firm support. As they drew closer, I could see that the husband’s face was filled with deep wrinkles, the kind of wrinkles which become etched in the face from suffering borne with grace. His head was covered with unkempt white hair and framed with a coarse white beard.
His eyes were filled with pure love for his beloved wife whom he assisted tenderly as she came forward to venerate the Holy Cross. Her eyes were distant and her face was beautiful, wrinkled but profoundly feminine, revealing a landscape of embedded sorrows and joys, a full life now coming to its winter.
As she drew closer, I could tell that the lines in her face had been accentuated by the progressive ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.
He stooped to kiss the cross and in so doing moved his steady hands and his face momentarily away from her gaze. She looked at first afraid, because his face had left her view for a brief moment. I noticed as he came back into her view that a serene look filled her eyes. She seemed to be asking her beloved a simple question with her expression, "What now?"
He directed her head toward the base of the Cross and in so doing he caught my eyes with his own. Instantly, I raised the Cross so that she could touch it with her lips as a sign of her surrendered love. He smiled at me and directed his beloved wife back to the pew. Words were useless. I knew, he knew, and the Lord knew.
A little later, during the third part of the solemn Good Friday service, when Holy Communion is given to the faithful for the last time before the Easter Vigil, I saw them again. I had the privilege of carrying the Body of Christ to this same couple.
She was unable to come forward again because her body just wouldn’t respond to her mind. As I approached them with the consecrated hosts, he insisted that she receive first and directed my hand toward her mouth with great affection and love-- for his wife, but even more for the Eucharistic Lord whom he so obviously loved.
Then he received the Lord, and with a profound smile, responded to my affirmation, "the Body of Christ" with a deep, heartfelt, "Amen." Other words were not needed. He and I both knew we had participated in the mystery we were remembering on this "Good" Friday.
His face - and the face of his beloved - revealed the face of Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate.
He and I both knew the beauty of the moment - and we exchanged that knowledge - without words - in the meeting of our eyes. We both knew that this beautiful woman, whom he cherished, was already in the hands of a loving God. It would all be alright. She would one day be made entirely new.
The love that he bore for her was a participation in a deeper Love -- the kind revealed on the Cross that they had both just kissed; the kind communicated to them, given to them freely in the Body of Christ they had just consumed.
He and I both knew at that moment why we call it "Good" Friday.
As I walked back toward the altar, I recalled another Good Friday.
On that Good Friday, I had served as a Deacon at a committal and funeral service for my dear wife’s father, Malcolm. He had died from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. For years, in the progression of that disease, I watched Malcolm reveal the Face of the suffering Christ. It culminated in his passage through the final portal of the great mystery of life and the invitation to faith that we call death.
During those years, I also watched my beloved wife, his loving daughter, reveal the Face of Christ. Through her relationship with her Dad (whom she had the privilege of caring for through the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s disease), she became an "icon", a mirror, a living word of love to me and others whose lives she touched through her faithful witness of love.
As her father became a child and his daughter became a second mother to him, I beheld what I now call a "Mary Moment". I watched my beloved bride truly become, in a new and profound way, a daughter of a merciful Heavenly Father and in that participation in divine Love, embrace her own earthly father with the love that is greater than any that is purely human.
In that chorus of lived out sacrificial love, she resembled Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, whose humble "Fiat" of surrendered love opened the floodgates of heaven and changed history.
That graveside committal service took place, at his request, in Malcolm's childhood home of Andover, Massachusetts. At the traditional time, when Catholics remember Our Lord, Love in the flesh, hanging on Golgotha’s hill, I commended Malcolm to the Mercy revealed on the altar of the Cross.
As we placed his remains in the womb of the earth until his resurrection at the last glorious day, I also experienced why it is called "Good" Friday. That too was a moment when words were useless.
As I led the ritual of prayers, I blessed the ground with holy water and spoke these words in a graveside reflection, "I now know a little more deeply why we call it 'Good' Friday - it is good because it reveals the heart of a Good God of boundless merciful love who Himself knows our pain and who, in His Son, transforms it all by redemptive love. This is not the end for our brother, father and friend Malcolm, but it is a new beginning. Life triumphs over death and love transforms pain and suffering because Jesus hung on that Cross on that Friday we call 'Good'. That tomb in Jerusalem is empty now, and one day, so too will this ground give back Malcolm, made entirely new by the power of transforming love!"
Through the encounter with the elderly couple, as well as at the graveside of my father-in-law, I experienced the beauty of truly surrendered love.
Every Good Friday is an invitation to each of us to be reminded of that same love through our encounter with Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ, who stretched out his arms to embrace each one of us.
On Good Friday we are reminded that death is no longer the final word. For those filled with hope of the Resurrection, it is no longer an enemy but a friend, the passageway to life eternal.
We are also promised that the suffering we are invited to bear, when joined to Jesus Christ, can become a vehicle for love and mercy.
At the end of the Good Friday service at Christ the King, when I turned with the priest to face the gathered assembly, my eyes were drawn again to that beautiful couple. I will never forget their faces. I saw the face of Christ revealed.
What a privilege it was for me to have experienced each of those two "Good" Fridays. What a privilege it will be to experience another one this year.
Love is stronger than death. That is why this Friday is so good. Love Incarnate died for each one of us and transformed the door of death into the portal of everlasting life and communion.
by Greg Laurie
The first statement Jesus made from the cross was, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Maybe we would have understood it more if He had said, "Father, condemn them," or "Father, judge them." But the first thing Jesus said from the cross was a prayer for His enemies: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Jesus was practicing what He preached. Remember, in the Sermon on the Mount He said, "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
And Jesus also was fulfilling a Messianic prophesy. Isaiah 53, written hundreds of years before Christ died, said that the Messiah would make intercession for the transgressors. And that is exactly what Jesus was doing. He was interceding for all the people who played a role in His death.
Pilate himself knew Jesus was innocent. He said, "I find no fault in this Man" (Luke 23:4). But because he was so concerned about his career and position, he would not pardon Jesus and let Him go. The religious rulers knew that no legitimate charge could be brought against Christ. Even the Roman centurion at the cross said, "Truly this Man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39). Judas Iscariot knew he had done wrong, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4).
So Jesus was essentially saying, "Father, forgive them. They don't realize how bad this is. Forgive them, because they need forgiveness so desperately. Forgive them, for they have committed a sin that is beyond all comprehension. Forgive them, for they have done something that is beyond bad. Father, forgive them."
When was the last time you prayed for your enemies?
Copyright ©2012 by Harvest Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
by T. Austin-Sparks
When we refer to the "beginning" - meaning the beginning of Christianity - we, of course, instinctively think of Pentecost, that advent of the Holy Spirit. We then proceed to think of the early record of the Holy Spirit's "Acts". For a return to or recovery of such a condition there is often expressed a desire, even a longing, and in many basic respects rightly so. We here are seeking to underline some of those fundamental factors. So, we come now to point to the one which is very vital and important to the whole of New Testament Christianity. Doctrinally this would arouse little controversy among Evangelicals, but the very acceptance of the doctrine as a matter of course may mean an inadequate recognition of its importance. We can only trust that as we proceed, a new recognition of the greatness and imperativeness of this truth may break or dawn upon our readers.
This great truth is that The Holy Spirit has one court of appeal from which he will on no account depart.
The Holy Spirit has an arbiter, a judge, an umpire, to which He will unswervingly appeal for a verdict on every matter. As in a game or contest with two opposing sides the appeal of "How's that?" is made to the umpire; or as in a court of law the appeal for a decision is made to the one who is there to give judgment: so it is with the Holy Spirit. He has a fixed basis for His verdict, and His verdict is fixed as to death or life, as to rejection or acceptance. It is of supreme importance whether the Holy Spirit says "Yes" or "No". Go through the Book of the Acts and note where and when that verdict was given, one way or the other and see the result. There was a sensitiveness to the Holy Spirit then which meant everything for arrest or release by discovering whether His finger indicated "Yes" or "No".
What was the Holy Spirit's ground of arbitration, judgment and verdict? It was ever and always the Cross. The Cross combining the death and resurrection of Christ was God's almighty and categorical "No" or "Yes". The death of Christ was that eternal "No" to an entire order and source of things. The resurrection was His wonderful and glorious "Yes" to another order.
The Holy Spirit Always Appealed to the Cross
This is seen - if we have eyes - everywhere in the New Testament. Take in your hand the fact that the Cross set aside one entire humanity in Adam and gave the only place to another "Adam", a new and different humanity, and with it go through each book of the New Testament. Often, most often, you will find the Cross definitely mentioned in some way, such as "The Cross of our Lord Jesus" or "Christ crucified", etc. Sometimes it will be by implication, such as in Philippians 2:5-8. Sometimes an exhortation, a command, an admonition, an appeal, will involve the Cross for a response. The Cross runs the whole way through, and it has a very great many applications and connections. On ALL matters of life, conduct, service, movement, spirit, speech, judgment, etc., it is as though the Holy Spirit is saying: "That was crucified with Christ"; "That does not live before God"; "That belongs to a source which was 'buried with Christ'." Or, on the contrary, "That has My verdict of life and peace because it is 'risen with Christ'; it has God's 'Yes'."
At Corinth there was so much carnality that sensitiveness to the Holy Spirit's judgment was dulled or numbed. Hence the apostle - before coming to them - made a positive resolve "to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, AND HIM CRUCIFIED". "Christ crucified - the wisdom of God and the power of God." "We preach Christ crucified."
This is an example of what we mean when we say that the arbitration, the judgment of the Holy Spirit is always by reference to the Cross. This can be noted in its manifold and specific connection in every other book. Violation of this position invariably resulted in confusion, complications, and frustration. Lapses there were, and sovereign acts of God saved the situation ultimately, but the record leaves these lapses as warnings for all time.
We cannot relegate the Cross to history, as an event, a bit of Christian doctrine. It is an abiding judgment-seat; the Lamb is on the throne now, and will be the final verdict of judgment. The last view is of "The Lamb in the midst of the throne", and the whole scene will be one of God's mighty and eternal "Yes!", when everything of the "No!" of God will have been actually removed.
Let us come with the Holy Spirit to the Cross with all our matters, and ask Him to register its verdict as to whether it is alive or dead unto God.
© 2002-2013 SermonIndex.net
By Fr. Ilyas Kurban, Pastor, St. George's Church, Boston
The Passion Week has a special position in the liturgical life of the Church. The whole week is a complete unity during which we follow the procession of our Lord's passions. His crucifixion, His burial, then His resurrection.
The week begins on Lazarus Saturday, and take notice that from now on, there is no connection between the services of this week and the services during the Great Lent.
Lazarus Saturday, as well as Palm Sunday, are great feasts. On Lazarus Saturday, the Church celebrates the remembrance of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. This feast has a special meaning because our Lord reveals His absolute authority over death and life, though He is going to die.
Palm Sunday has a remarkable feature and a unique one in the life of Jesus. Here Christ claims for the first time worldly honor and glory; here our Lord wants to stress the fact that He is the Master of the whole universe and its both aspects, the spirit and the matter.
Now, if we examine the contents of the services on Monday, we see that it is preparing us to the great event which is going to take place. Here is the Lord with His disciples. He is preparing them to understand the great mystery of His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. He stresses also, the eschatology, the end of the world, the new era and the new land which is to come.
On Holy Tuesday and Wednesday, we meet the story of the false Apostle who is going to betray his master. He is a lover of money. Here, Judas is representing a great part of humanity because the Lord was not betrayed once and for all, but He is betrayed every day. In contrast with Judas, there is a woman, a sinner, but she has shifted from one extremity to the other, from the state of sin and impurity to a state of grace and purity.
On the following day, three main happenings took place; first, Christ washed His disciples feet, because He alone was able to perform the act of purification, purification of the soul and of the body. The second one was the celebration of the Passover from death into life, from condemnation into salvation. Here, Jesus is offering His own blood and His own body to the disciples and then, to the whole of humanity. The third happening, which took place, was the prayer in the garden, then the betrayal, the trial, and the crucifixion.
On this day, which is great and holy, the church is celebrating the remembrance of the Lord's passion, suffering, His crucifixion on the cross, and His burial in a grave.
The church is not commemorating some great events that merely happened in the past, but it is celebrating a mystical fact that has the power of eternity. Therefore, the rites of the Orthodox Church are reflections in time to these mystical facts, reflections in symbols, in form, and in mysteries. The church is vivifying before us the suffering of the Lord, then His glorious resurrection as happenings that continue in their reality and effectiveness forever, and so, it is obvious that the suffering of the Lord and His resurrection are living facts, even in our epoch, and will be forever.
Before this fact, the church is trying not to move our feelings and sentiments, but to push us into the depth of the mystery, and so, it explains to us the meaning of the suffering of the Lord, His death, and His burial. It is introducing to us, Christ in His Glory is crucified.
Therefore, we do not find in the readings of the Holy Week, especially in the service of this evening, mourning and wailing as much as we find contemplation, admiration, praising, and glorifications.
"Thou hast revealed, O Master, numerous rights as signs of thy burial, but thou hast revealed thy hidden things as God and Man to those who are in Hades, also, who shouted saying, 'There is none holy save Thee, O Lord.' ".
The contemplation in the mystery leads us into admiration of its depths:
The admiration leads us into praising and glorification: "The ranks of the angels were dazzled at beholding Him who sitteth in the bosom of the Father placed in a grave like one dead. How could the immortal one at whom the myriads of angels gaze, glorifying, be with the dead in Hades, being the Lord, Creator?".
How the church does not admire and it sees the omni-present One limited in a small grave:
How the church does not admire and it sees the absolute truth is condemned as a criminal:
How the church does not admire and it sees the immortal God is dead in body. The Holy One crucified on a cursed cross.
No, the church does not stop at the limits of admiration, but it goes further to discover the mystery of divine love personified in Jesus crucified. Jesus, the Lord, became man and He was obedient until death. Then the divine movement is not only a descendant movement, but it is also an ascendant one.
This movement was necessary to abolish the authority of death, once and for all.
Here, the church is praising God in his grave because she knows that His death is the spring of life and from this grave He will raise in His power trampling death by death and bestowing life and victory to all humanity:
Source: Word Magazine April 1958
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