Introduction to the readings of the Extraordinary Rite taken from Saint Andrew Daily Missal
“We are not unaware,” says St. Leo, “that among all Christian celebrations the Paschal mystery holds the first place. Our manner of living throughout the whole year, by reforming our ways, ought to give us the dispositions for keeping it worthily and in a fitting manner. These present days which we know to be close to that sublime sacrament of divine mercy, require devotion in a yet higher degree.” The mystery of which St. Leo speaks is our Redeemer’s Passion, whose anniversary is close at hand. Priest and Mediator of the New Testament, Jesus will soon ascend His Cross, and the blood which He will shed He will offer to His Father, entering into the Holies which is Heaven itself (Epistle). The Church sings: “All hail , thou Mystery adored! Hail Cross! on which Life Himself died, and by death our life restored!” (Hymn of Vespers). The Eucharist is the memorial of this boundless love of a God for men for when instituting it our Lord said: “This is my Body which shall be delivered for you; this chalice is the new testament in My Blood. Do this… in commemoration of Me” (Communion).
What is the response of man to all these divine favours? “His own received Him not,” says St. John, speaking of the welcome which the Jews gave Jesus. “For good they rendered Him evil and prepared for Him nothing but insults.” You, our Lord told them, “dishonour me,” and in fact, the Gospel shows us the ever growing hatred of the Sanhedrin.
Abraham, the father of God’s people, firmly believed in the divine promises which heralded the future Messias; and in Limbo his soul, which, as believing was beyond the reach of eternal death, rejoiced to see these promises fulfilled in the coming of Christ.
But the Jews, who ought to have recognized in Jesus, the Son of God, greater than Abraham and the prophets, because eternal, misunderstood the meaning of His words, insulted Him by treating Him as a blasphemer and possessed, and tried to stone Him (Gospel). And God tells him, in the person of Jeremias: “Be not afraid at their presence: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord… For behold I have made thee this a fortified city and a pillar of iron and a wall of brass, over all the land, to the kings of Juda, to the princes thereof and to the priests and to the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee and shall not prevail: for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee” (First Nocturn). “I seek not my own glory,” says Jesus, “there is one who seeketh and judgeth” (Gospel). And by the mourn of psalmist He goes on: “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver from the unjust and deceitful man.” […] God will not permit men to lay their hands on Jesus until His hour is come (Gospel), and when that hour of sacrifice came, He snatched His Son from the hands of evil men by raising Him from death. This death and resurrection had been foretold by the prophets and typified in Isaac, when, on the point of being sacrificed at God’s command by Abraham his father he was restored to life by almighty God, his place being taken by a ram who became a type of the Lamb of God, offered in man’s stead.
Thus our Lord, in His first coming, was to be humbled and made to suffer; not until later will He appear in all His power. But the Jews, blinded by their passions, could appreciate only one kind of coming, a coming in triumph, and so scandalized by the Cross of Christ, they rejected Him. In their turn, almighty God rejected them, while graciously receiving those who put their trust in the redemption of Jesus Christ, uniting their sufferings with His. “Rightly, and under the guidance of the Holy Ghost,” says St. Leo, “did the holy Apostles institute these days of more rigorous fasting, so that by a common sharing in the Cross of Christ, even we ourselves may do something towards uniting ourselves with the work that He has accomplished for us. As St. Paul says: “If we suffer with Him, we also shall be glorified with Him.” Where we find our Lord’s suffering being shared, there we can look on the attainment of the happiness promised by Him as a thing safe and assured.”
Today’s station is in the Basilica of Saint-Peter, raised on the site of Nero’s circus where the prince of the Apostles died, like His Divine Master on a cross.
In recalling our Lord’s Passion, the anniversary of which draws near, let us remember that if we are to experience its saving effects, we must, like the Master, know how to suffer persecution for justice sake. And when as members of God’s family, we are persecuted with and like our Lord, let us ask of God, that we may be “governed in body” and “kept to mind”.
Introit: Psalm xiii. 1-2
Epistle: Hebrews ix. 11-15
Gospel: John viii. 46-59
Communion: 1 Corinthians xi. 24, 25