Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Good Tidings) Special

Volume 5 No. 277 April 3, 2015

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Jesus, The Great Light - Isaiah 9:2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Gospel Saturday in Church

1. Bible Readings For Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Good Tidings)

Bible Readings For Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Good Tidings)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_passion-Holy-saturday.htm

2. Sermons For Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Good Tidings)

Sermons For For Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Good Tidings)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-for-Passion-week_Saturday.htm

3. Malankara World Passion Week Supplement

Malankara World has a supplement that provides detailed information about Passion Week including articles, prayers, sermons, etc. You will find it here:

Passion Week Supplement in Malankara World
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lent/Passion/Default.htm

Malankara World has developed a daily plan of bible readings, meditations, reflections, and prayers for Passion Week. You will find it here:

Today in Passion Week
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lent/Passion/Passion_Today_archives.htm

Features

4. Holy Saturday or Gospel Saturday

Holy Saturday or Gospel Saturday, the 'day of the entombed Christ', is the Lord's day of rest, for on that day Christ's body lay in His tomb. We recall the Apostle's Creed, which says "He descended unto the dead." It is a day of suspense between two worlds, that of darkness, sin and death, and that of the Resurrection and the restoration of the Light of the World. This day between Good Friday and Easter Day makes present to us the end of one world and the complete newness of the era of salvation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.

5. Waiting For God

A small act of mercy on the part of Joseph of Arimathea meant that Jesus' limp and lifeless body would not be thrown into a pit of a grave, but laid carefully in a rock-hewn garden tomb. Joseph was probably a man with significant conflicts. Wealthy, a prominent member of the Jewish council, he represented the very establishment that was committed to Jesus' demise. Yet he believed in Jesus, secretly. To believe in Jesus does put one on the spot. Being a committed disciple of Jesus always upsets the status quo. ...

6. Complete and Effective Divinity

Co-Resurrection. The proof that I have experienced crucifixion with Jesus is that I have a definite likeness to Him. The Spirit of Jesus entering me rearranges my personal life before God. The resurrection of Jesus has given Him the authority to give the life of God to me, and the experiences of my life must now be built on the foundation of His life. I can have the resurrection life of Jesus here and now, and it will exhibit itself through holiness. ...

7. Ever wondered what happened between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday? Where did Jesus go?

We celebrated the death of Jesus yesterday at our Good Friday services and on Sunday we will celebrate his resurrection . So what happened between Friday and Sunday? Ever Wondered?

Well here is what I see in scripture happened. ...

8. When Easter Feels Overwhelming: Sometimes It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

It seemed whenever I thought of Easter, I thought only of Easter Sunday - the celebration of resurrected life - or Good Friday - the death Christ suffered on the cross. I never thought as pastor and author Pete Wilson points out in Plan B, of the Saturday In-Between:

"Saturday… It seems like a day when nothing is happening. It's a day of questioning, doubting, wondering and definitely waiting…helplessness or hopelessness.

… Saturday was the day God was engineering a resurrection." ...

9. The Sorrows of Death Surrounded Me - I Will Love Thee

"The sorrows of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me" (Psalm 17:5). It is the voice of all the just of ages past who, like the holy prophet Job, endured the loss of things dear to them, suffered every manner of affliction, and found themselves surrounded on all side by - the psalmist says it - "the sorrows of death" and "the sorrows of hell". There are hundreds of thousands of people who are feeling this very thing today. There may be people very close to us and dear to our hearts, loved ones who are enduring the relentless assault of the sorrows of death, the sorrows of hell; sensitive souls scorched by what they experience as the brutality of everyday life. ...

10. About Malankara World

Gospel Saturday in Church

Bible Readings for Holy Saturday (April 4)

Bible Readings For Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Good Tidings)
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_passion-Holy-saturday.htm

Sermons for Holy Saturday (April 4)

Sermons For For Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Good Tidings)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-for-Passion-week_Saturday.htm

More Sermons

Malankara World Passion Week Supplement

Malankara World has a supplement that provides detailed information about Passion Week including articles, prayers, sermons, etc. You will find it here:

Passion Week Supplement in Malankara World

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.

Good Friday

Gospel Saturday

Easter

Malankara World Journal Specials on Gospel Saturday:

MW Journal Issue 213 - Holy Saturday Special (April 2014)

MW Journal Issue 134 - Passion Week Special 4 - Good Friday and Holy Saturday (2013)

MW Journal Issue 69 - Holy Week Special - 3 (Good Friday - Holy Saturday) (2012)

Features

Holy Saturday or Gospel Saturday
The women saw how His body was laid; and they prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
Luke 23:55-56

Holy Saturday or Gospel Saturday (in Latin, Sabbatum Sanctum), the 'day of the entombed Christ', is the Lord's day of rest, for on that day Christ's body lay in His tomb. We recall the Apostle's Creed, which says "He descended unto the dead." It is a day of suspense between two worlds, that of darkness, sin and death, and that of the Resurrection and the restoration of the Light of the World. This day between Good Friday and Easter Day makes present to us the end of one world and the complete newness of the era of salvation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.

Waiting For God

by Mel Lawrenz, The Brook Network

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 19:38-42)

A small act of mercy on the part of Joseph of Arimathea meant that Jesus' limp and lifeless body would not be thrown into a pit of a grave, but laid carefully in a rock-hewn garden tomb. Joseph was probably a man with significant conflicts. Wealthy, a prominent member of the Jewish council, he represented the very establishment that was committed to Jesus' demise. Yet he believed in Jesus, secretly. To believe in Jesus does put one on the spot. Being a committed disciple of Jesus always upsets the status quo.

Nicodemus, also fearful but compelled, came to the tomb too. So there two men, both of whose associations put them at odds with Jesus, both of whom really wanted to believe, are the ones who respectfully wrap the body of Jesus in cloths and seventy-five pounds of spices. Yet the only thing that can really take away the stench of death and its empty stare is resurrection.

These and the other disciples were still stuck in that no-man's-land between life and death. All that Jesus' followers had to hold onto were Jesus' vague words about rising from death. Could such words be taken seriously at all? What would they do in these days? Would they be arrested next? And so they waited behind locked doors because there was nothing else to do.

Ponder This:

Is there some way in which you are waiting to see what will happen next? How will you find faith in the waiting place?

Source: KNOWING HIM, An Easter Devotional

Complete and Effective Divinity

by Oswald Chambers

"If we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection . . ."
- Romans 6:5

Co-Resurrection. The proof that I have experienced crucifixion with Jesus is that I have a definite likeness to Him. The Spirit of Jesus entering me rearranges my personal life before God. The resurrection of Jesus has given Him the authority to give the life of God to me, and the experiences of my life must now be built on the foundation of His life. I can have the resurrection life of Jesus here and now, and it will exhibit itself through holiness.

The idea all through the apostle Paul's writings is that after the decision to be identified with Jesus in His death has been made, the resurrection life of Jesus penetrates every bit of my human nature. It takes the omnipotence of God - His complete and effective divinity - to live the life of the Son of God in human flesh. The Holy Spirit cannot be accepted as a guest in merely one room of the house - He invades all of it. And once I decide that my "old man" (that is, my heredity of sin) should be identified with the death of Jesus, the Holy Spirit invades me. He takes charge of everything. My part is to walk in the light and to obey all that He reveals to me. Once I have made that important decision about sin, it is easy to "reckon" that I am actually "dead indeed to sin," because I find the life of Jesus in me all the time (Romans 6:11). Just as there is only one kind of humanity, there is only one kind of holiness - the holiness of Jesus. And it is His holiness that has been given to me. God puts the holiness of His Son into me, and I belong to a new spiritual order.

Source: My Utmost for His Highest (The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers)

Ever wondered what happened between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday? Where did Jesus go?

by Peter Pilt

So I am writing this on Easter Saturday. We celebrated the death of Jesus yesterday at our Good Friday services and on Sunday we will celebrate his resurrection . So what happened between Friday and Sunday? Ever Wondered?

Well here is what I see in scripture happened. First a little context.

Recently I was preaching on types of Christ and I came across this scripture and it troubled me

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
- Matt 12:40

So Jesus said that Jonah was a type of Jesus.

Most people know the story of Jonah. He was a Minor Prophet in the Old Testament that was told by God to go and preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. Jonah doesn't want to and so he goes in the opposite direction on a boat. Ultimately he is in a major storm and gets thrown overboard by the crew and is swallowed by a whale.

Some commentators believe that Jonah actually died in the whale. Check out this verse

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.
- Jonah 2:6

So after three days he got vomited up on the shore and he goes and preaches to Nineveh and Nineveh repents.

Go forward about 600 or 700 years, Jesus says "As Jonah was in the belly of the whale, so must I be in the belly of the whale 3 days and 3 nights."

What happened when Jesus died?

He went to the belly of the earth, but what did he do?

He died on the cross, disappeared for three days and then he comes back.

Where did He go and what did He do?

The bible doesn't say a real lot about what He did do. But it gives us some clues that we can draw conclusions from.

31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.
- Acts 2:31

Peter is preaching and he talks about Jesus and he said that when Jesus died, his soul wasn't left in Hades. But he was resurrected. So we know, that when Jesus died on the cross, he went to a place called Hades.

7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore He says:
"When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men." [a]

9 (Now this, "He ascended" - what does it mean but that He also first[b] descended into the lower parts of the earth?
Ephesians 4:7-9

So we know:

No 1- He went into Hades

No 2- He descended into the lower parts of the Earth.

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us [a] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.
- 1 Peter 3:18-19

We know Jesus was born at Christmas.
We know He died at Easter. - was dead on Easter eve?
We know that He died on the cross and went down to a place called "Hades"
We know according to Ephesians that it was down, in the lower parts of the earth.
We know that He preached to the spirits that are in prison.
But I don't believe that you can have a second chance once you die. Thus a problem with the idea that Jesus went down there and preached to the spirits in prison.

I have done some research and want to bring some thoughts to you and bring some clarity to this scripture.

In the English language, there is one word for hell and that is, hell.

In the bible there are 3 words for hell. And only one of them is hell as we understand the term.

The first one is Sheol. Which is used only in the Old Testament.

The second one is Hades. Which is used only in the New Testament.

They are the same place. Just a different language.

Sheol and Hades is a temporary place where people go once they have departed this life. This was pre resurrection of Jesus.

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the sheol, you are there
- Ps 139:8

As a cloud vanishes and is gone,
so he who goes down to sheol does not return.
- Job 7:9

Hades is defined in the Strong's Greek Dictionary, as the place of departed souls.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
- Matt 16:18

The 3rd hell is a place called Gehenna. It is the ultimate hell. It is the place in Revelations 20 and 21 how at the end of time, when all the judgement has happened, it actually says dead and Hades will be cast into Gehenna. Into the lake of fire. Remember that - Hades is thrown into Gehanna.

Our concept of hell, fire and brimstone etc, that is Gehenna.

At the moment Gehenna is empty. Because the judgement of the end of time hasn't happened yet. It is Hades that we actually deal with right now.

The bible refers to Hades as always being down. In Isaiah it says that therefore the grave enlarges its appetite. It means that Hades can expand to fit more people.

But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.
- Rev 5:3

Hades had 2 compartments. It had a compartment where those with no faith in God would go to after they died. And there would be tormenting. The other compartment is a place they used to call Paradise. Where people were kept in comfort, awaiting the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here is a scripture that supports this idea.

19 "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell [a] from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 "Then he cried and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Luke 16:19-24

Jesus is on the cross and there is a thief who says, "remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus says "This day, you will be with me in Paradise."

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us."

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." 42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."

43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
- Luke 23:39-43

He was going to the Paradise side of Hades. For a particular purpose.

What happened when He went there?

He went and collected all the righteous souls and took them to heaven. When Noah and Abraham died, they went to Paradise. But when you and I die, the bible says Absent from the body, but present with the Lord. When we go from this life to the next, we go straight to Heaven. We live post resurrection.

The system changed once the resurrection of Jesus happened.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
- Matt 27:51-53

Notice that all the saints, the people who died with a faith in God, rose from their grave, POST JESUS' RESURRECTION.

Now, if you find yourself in Hades, you are in all sorts of trouble. It means you have died without a faith in Jesus Christ. Those people are awaiting the judgement that Revelation talks about.

So what about the scripture that says that Jesus went down and preached to the spirits in prison?

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us  to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.
- 1 Peter 3:18-19

Preached = to make a declaration - according to the Greek definition of the word that is used here.

In 1 Peter 3:18, I believe that Jesus was down there declaring stuff to the devil.

Jesus went down there, emptied the paradise section of Hades, took those guys up to heaven post resurrection and He started to declare some things to the devil.

He started to declare that He held the keys to death and hell.

To declare that the devil was defeated.

To declare that the Holy Ghost was coming.

That the church would rise up and the gates of Hades could not prevail against it. It was the announcement of the beginning of the Church age - which I believe ends pre tribulation in Revelation 4 - but that is another blog topic for another day. There was a declaration in the Spirit Realm.

When Jesus had finished making declarations, then He said, come on Holy Spirit, raise me from the dead.

There is a scripture in Ecclesiastes that says that "Wisdom is found in the house of mourning." What wisdom?

1. Death is inevitable. Everyone is going to die. People think that if they don't talk or think about death, somehow they will escape it. You cannot escape death. It is there. You will die.

2. Jesus has provided a way of escape. Every single one of us is going to die. He died so that you and I would be prepared for the inevitable.

3. Death can come as a surprise. I wonder how many people go, "Wow. I'm dead!"

Jesus is our escape plan. He was sent here to earth for us to escape Hades and Gehenna so we would got to an eternity with God. We have got to think through our salvation plan. We've got to think that death is inevitable.

Enjoy life, enjoy the ride, but be prepared for any surprises that may come your way.

To me, my eternal salvation is too big a deal to risk waiting until I'm older.

Jesus is our escape plan. He is our Noah's Ark. Our substitutionary lamb.

Source: peterpilt.org

When Easter Feels Overwhelming: Sometimes It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

by Bonnie, Faith Barista

"You see, there are two very different types of hope in this world. One is hoping for something, and the other is hoping in Someone." - Pete Wilson

How can we celebrate Easter when we are overwhelmed with everyday questions?

I didn't see it coming. I went to bed like I always had, ate dinner with my chopsticks and brushed my teeth just fine.

The next morning, I got dressed and drove into work as usual. Logged into my account and started checking my emails. I started typing.

Needles of pain shot through my wrists. My fingers felt numb and tingly, like they'd fallen asleep. Confused, I tried to mouse and click around. My forearm started hurting even more.

My fingers refused to hit another keystroke.

Two hours later, I found myself sitting in front of a doctor who specialized in treating work related injuries.

"You won't be going back to work for a while. You have RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury). Might be carpel tunnel syndrome. We won't know yet, until you get some therapy."

How long will I be out? I asked, thinking a day or two.

When it all was said and done, combining full and partial disability, my road to recovery took nearly three years.

Getting Better Or Getting Worse?

When I first started physical therapy, I was very optimistic. I was determined to heal fast. Take my meds, get my therapy, do my exercises and wear my wrist braces.

The problem was healing isn't a linear process.

I was progressively hurting more week after week. My pain extended to my upper arms, my shoulders, neck and even my back. Was I just falling apart?

My physical therapist Tom educated me.

You're actually getting better, even if it feels like you're getting worse.

Tom drew a swirl of concentric circles on his note pad.

He said that healing is like peeling an onion. He said that I had ignored the fatigue initially in my muscles so well, that it caused my body to compensate in other areas.

Pain, Tom explained, was a healthy indicator that my body was finally speaking to me.

My path to recovery was to swirl out first - to understand exactly how far my injury went. Tom gently pointed out that as one muscle group got better, I would start feeling the pain in other areas that had been masked on top of the other.

I have found myself in the same condition for many Easters.

I wanted so badly to celebrate the joy of Easter Sunday resurrection, I ignored the layers of stress and unanswered questions from my everyday life.

The Saturday In-Between

Don't get me wrong, I was filled with joy for Jesus on Easter Sunday, in praise and thankfulness for the sacrifice and love He poured out for me on Good Friday 2000 years ago. I am always brought to tears meditating on the suffering our Lord endured emotionally, physically and spiritually by taking up the cross. But, I was often heart heavy waiting to taste the power of resurrection in some difficult circumstances.

It seemed whenever I thought of Easter, I thought only of Easter Sunday - the celebration of resurrected life - or Good Friday - the death Christ suffered on the cross. I never thought as pastor and author Pete Wilson points out in Plan B, of the Saturday In-Between:

"Saturday… It seems like a day when nothing is happening. It's a day of questioning, doubting, wondering and definitely waiting…helplessness or hopelessness.

Is it possible that Saturday is actually a day of preparation?

… Saturday was the day God was engineering a resurrection."

My One Thing

This year, I'm celebrating Easter Sunday with a lot of my story resurrected from my "Saturday" life. Not in a way where everything has worked out. A lot of the questions I've been asking for a very long time haven't been answered.

In fact, some of the problems I've asked God to solve haven't gotten better. But, I have learned one thing through my time in this extended season of waiting.

That one thing is this: Jesus' love continues to be one thing I can always say yes to.

In lieu of answers and resolution, I had to continually make a choice. Do I let my pain and hurt shape my faith - or do I take my faith and run into the arms of Jesus?

This has been my greatest joy: I have been able to choose love - because Love chose me.

I've been able to find when I couldn't possibly wait any longer in dissonance and lack of closure - the love of Jesus continues to heal me, carry me and attract me to Him. I can continue choosing to love God, love others, and pour myself out, even in weakness and imperfection.

All because Jesus loves me. Because of the cross.
 


I had given up hope of ever getting better.
Then I got up one day, not feeling any pain. It left me, just as it came. Suddenly.

It took me many years to get to that one morning. I will always remember who got me through it.

It wasn't hope in recovery. It was hope in Jesus.

I don't know how long our Saturdays will last, friends.
But one thing I do know, Jesus has walked that Saturday into eternity for us.
His love will never leave us and His love will get us through to our Easter Sundays.
He loves us all the way.

"The God of all grace,
who called you to his eternal glory in Christ
- after you have suffered a little while -
will himself restore you
and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
- 1 Peter 5:10

How is Jesus speaking to you this Easter?

Pull up a chair. I'm wishing you a Happy Easter, friend. And wishing I could enjoy a big hug together and we could talk and pray awhile in the quiet of this afternoon, as we step into Good Friday and journey to Easter Sunday together. Together in Spirit, we'll be standing fresh and tall - completely accepted and known - wrapped within the risen love of Jesus' arms. Just as we are. I'm remembering the journey our Savior took 2,000 years ago carrying His cross, down Via Dolorosa, the way of pain, and how He is continue to walk the journey to carry our burdens on His shoulders for us today. With much love and affection, Bonnie

Source: Faith Barista

The Sorrows of Death Surrounded Me - I Will Love Thee

by Fr. Mark

The sorrows of death surrounded me,
the sorrows of hell encompassed me;
and in my affliction I called upon the Lord,
and He heard my voice from His holy temple.

Ps. I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength:
the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.

(Septuagesima Sunday Prayer, Psalm 17: 5-7, 2-3)

The Heart's Cry

The language of the psalms is the heart's cry of all humanity and of every man. The Psalter is the universal prayerbook: a prayerbook inspired by the Holy Ghost, entrusted to the children of Israel, presented to the Son of God in the flesh, sanctified in His Heart and on His lips, transmitted whole and entire to His Bride the Church, and quickened with her breath and her life-blood, day after day, in the sacred liturgy.

The Sorrows of Hell

In praying today's prayer (Introit) from Psalm 17, it is the voice of old father Adam and old mother Eve that echoes in the Church and, through her, reaches the ear of God: "The sorrows of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me" (Psalm 17:5). It is the voice of all the just of ages past who, like the holy prophet Job, endured the loss of things dear to them, suffered every manner of affliction, and found themselves surrounded on all side by - the psalmist says it - "the sorrows of death" and "the sorrows of hell". There are hundreds of thousands of people who are feeling this very thing today. There may be people very close to us and dear to our hearts, loved ones who are enduring the relentless assault of the sorrows of death, the sorrows of hell; sensitive souls scorched by what they experience as the brutality of everyday life.

Praying Out of the Eye of the Storm

The second part of the Introit is no less the prayer of those who are beset by suffering on all sides: "In my affliction I called upon the Lord, and He heard my voice from His holy temple" (Psalm 17:7). Prayer made out of the maelstrom of suffering, out of the eye of the storm, as it were, is rarely measured and neatly composed. It is a cry of terror. It has about it something savage, something primal, something that wrenches the heart. This is the very sort of prayer that God finds irresistible. This is the prayer that reaches Him even in the silence of His holy temple. And what, then, does the psalmist say? "He heard my voice from His holy temple" (Psalm 17:7).

When Prayer Seems Impossible

Many people have said to me over the years, "I cannot pray, I don't know how to prayer, prayer is impossible for me." And I respond, "Can you cry out when you are injured? Can you weep when you are grieved? Can you call for help when you are in danger?" If one can do any of things, one can still pray. God is not remote and hard-hearted; He is not shut up in an inviolable sanctuary where none but His angels and saints can risk a whispered plea. God is very near, and His heart is divinely sensitive to our pain. The sanctuary, heavily veiled and closed off to all but a few select mortals of the tribe of the Aaron, has given way to the sanctuary of a Heart pierced through by a soldier's lance, a Heart rent by a bloody gash that is eternally open and that will never close itself to sinners.

I Will Love Thee, O Lord

Knowing this, how can one not say with the psalmist in today's Introit: Diligam te Domine, I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength: the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer. There are many souls, whose sufferings are known to me, to whom I want to say, "Take today's Introit and make it your prayer; repeat it until it becomes familiar, until it lodges itself in your mind and in you heart. And then, let us talk again. You will have changed. This I can promise you."

Happiness Is Not Where You Think It Is

The Collect says that we are justly afflicted for our sins. What does this mean? Is God an omnipotent and callous torturer who takes satisfaction in meting out punishments day after day? Sadly, there are people who have this distorted image of God; the very mention of God causes them to cringe, waiting for a rain of blows that, they think, must surely be destined for them. Affliction - suffering - came into the world not as a punishment, but as the necessary coordinate of a world gone off its axis as a result of man's greed for power, self-determination, and riches. When God permits us to experience suffering, it is His way of saying, "Child, happiness is not where you think it is. For you, happiness does not lie here. You may think yourself capable of charting your own way to happiness but I, from where I am, see a better way. Trust me." God will, as the Collect says, mercifully deliver us, but He will do so in His own way, in His own time, and for reasons that we, from where we stand, cannot begin to fathom.

Yet Will I Trust Him

God has not destined us for endless suffering. There is no suffering the end of which God does not have in view. There is no affliction for which He has not a surpassing consolation in store. There is no calamity for which he has no remedy prepared. There is no grief that He does not intend to drown in joy. The one thing God asks us to do is to cling to hope in Him and to say with the prophet Job, and with Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, "Even though he slay me yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15).

The Rock That Is Christ

The Epistle (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 10:1-5) tells us that all the while the chosen people were wandering in the desert - forty years of unrest, of hunger, thirst, illness, scorpions, and temptation - God was with them. Mysteriously, it was already Christ, the Bread of Life and the Giver of Living Water, who followed them as they moved from place to place. Saint Paul speaks of the rock that displaced itself, and from this I would conclude that the rock in its successive displacements is the sign of a God who never fails to give us the assurance of His presence, even in the shifting sands of an unfamiliar desert landscape.

The Gradual (Psalm 9:10-11) and the Tract (Psalm 129:1-4), like the Introit (Prayer), give us the very substance of our prayer this week. I cannot dwell on these texts now, but I invite you to return to them, to repeat them, and to hold them in your heart later today, or tomorrow, or during the week.

God Does Not Think As Men Do

The Gospel today (Matthew 20:1-16) is intended to unsettle us. Jesus would have us understand that God does not think as men do, nor is He in any way bound to our limited and near-sighted ways of measuring out what we think right and just. To his prophet Isaiah God said, "Not mine to think as you think, deal as you deal; by the full height of heaven above earth, my dealings are higher than your dealings, my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 59:8-9). How often are we tempted to cry out to God, "This is not right," and again, "This is not just," or even "God, Thou art wrong," and "Thou art not just." The wise man, that is to say the humble man, learns to say - and sometimes at great personal cost - "I do not understand what Thou art doing nor why Thou art doing it, but I will trust Thee. I will trust Thee even when trusting Thee feels to me like utter madness."

My Trust Shall Never Leave Me

Saint Claude La Colombière's life was marked by sufferings and contradictions of all sorts. Once, he found himself up against a wall. He faced the choice between trusting God or of altogether losing hope. This is what he wrote:

My God, I believe most firmly
that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee,
and that we can want for nothing
when we rely upon Thee in all things;
therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties,
and to cast all my cares upon Thee.

People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors;
sickness may take from me my strength
and the means of serving Thee;
I may even lose Thy grace by sin;
but my trust shall never leave me.
I will preserve it to the last moment of my life,
and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me.

Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents;
let them trust to the purity of their lives,
the severity of their mortifications,
to the number of their good works, the fervor of their prayers;
as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope.

I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty,
and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee.
Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations;
that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assaults of the evil one,
and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies.
I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me,
and that I shall love Thee unceasingly.

The Light of His Face

The man who trusts God in this way will understand why the Church gives us today's Communion Antiphon in such marked contrast with the Introit that opened the Mass: "Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant, and save me in Thy mercy: let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon Thee" (Psalm 30:17-18). If, from our side, when all is darkness, we give the last word to trust, from God's side, the last word will be one of mercy, and with it will come the light of His Face.

Source: Vultus Christi by Fr. Mark
© 2013-2014 The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. All Rights Reserved.

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