Monday, March 26, 2012

HEAVENS HELD THEIR BREATH AND WE LOOK TO THE MOON FOR PASSOVER

THE ANNUNCIATION BY DONATELLO



As we have noted in past years, to-day's great Feast of the Annunciation, commemorates the day when God broke through into Time from Eternity and Became Man. But this greatest event in the History of the world depended on the agreement of a lowly Virgin, sure, a very special Virgin born free from Original Sin. But she had Free Will and devout and pious as she was and sinless, she was surprised by the message of the Archangel Gabriel, and even before that message by his awesome appearance and deferential greeting : "Hail full of grace! The Lord is with you!"( Luke 1: 28)We know that she was disturbed, perhaps alarmed by this Heavenly Visitor, for his next words were: "Do not be afraid!"( Luke 1: 30)
When he had delivered his unprecedented message, her intelligence overcame her humility. She did not doubt that God could do whatever He willed, but she did not understand how this might happen in her Virginal state. She simply asked : "How can this be,since I have no husband?"( Luke 1: 34)


The Angel's response was certain and definitive. Still the choice was hers - the Salvation of Man hung in the balance. An Archangel waits on the reply of an 18 years old maiden in a lowly village in the least outpost of the Roman Empire : Palestine.


The answer comes in faithful obedience to the Divine Will "Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum"- "Be it done unto me according to thy word"( Luke 1:38).  And the Word became Flesh.


And in this amazing commemoration we look forward 9 months to Christmas Day and the Birth of our Divine Saviour.


FIRST FULL MOON OF SPRING
Strangely though, because of the Moon's course and the Gregorian Calendar, we have not yet completed the cycle of our commemoration of the Lord's Life for the previous cycle which will not reach its peak until Easter Sunday on the 8th April. 2012.


As we all know, the Last Supper took place at Passover time and the Jews were anxious to hurry the Crucifixion of Our Divine Lord in order to avoid it going over into the Sabbath. The date of the Passover was determined by Sacred Scripture's precept that it fell on the First Full Moon of Spring. So it was that Christians began to commemorate Easter. But it is a more and more complicated than that. Firstly the calculations of the date of that First  Full Moon of Spring became less and less accurate as the centuries passed, the Calendar change twice ( Julian and then Gregorian) and calculation conventions also changed. A full discussion a all the bewildering elements can be found at:http://www.davros.org/misc/easter.html

But let us look at the culmination of the purpose of that Child's Life , begun to-day and ending on Calvary. For He was a Man born with the purpose of dying, whereas all of us , His creatures are born to live.


As the readings in to-days Mass tell us God took no pleasure, satisfaction or interest in the blood of animals and the burnt offerings of the Mosaic Law , they were suited to the base mentality of the chose people at the time. But now there was coming the Perfect Sacrifice of God Himself Made Man offered up, not on a stone altar but on the wood of the Cross.


As He journeyed toward that Death, Jesus Christ ensured that no avenue of suffering was left unexplored. As we follow Him in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, we can see how He went about the task. The Agony in the Garden is the sublime opening to this terrible drama - enlightened by His Divine knowledge Jesus was able to consider in His human mind every Sin that had ever been and would ever be committed. He did not just know it as a list, but in the utmost awareness of every aspect and implication of each event as it offended the Trinity. He then suffered the human frailty of the drowsy Apostles, who could not watch one hour without nodding off. Then despite His continuous efforts to give Judas a chance to change his mind, and to hide his treachery from the others, He had to suffer the sickening betrayal by one of His own.This was followed by the beginning of physical violence and demeaning treatment to His person.Then the indignity of being arraigned before Annas who had no right to pretend authority in the matter though he had real influence over his son-in-law Caiaphas the High Priest. Then on to Caiaphas - questions , insults . a blow to His holy Face. Then unjustly bundled off in night time haste to a Prison Cell.Early next morning He is rudely woken and rushed off tightly bound to Pilate's Fortress Court.His Divinity is affronted by the questions of this Pagan Ruler, but even as He suffers Jesus gives Pilate every chance to do the right thing. Pilate fails and trying to be rid of the responsibility, sends the Lord to the contemptible Herod. Herod wants no more than a stunt/miracle  to amuse his jaded Court. He gets nothing , not even a word from the Lord .Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate dressed in the white of a fool.Such humiliation Jesus drinks in. 


ECCE HOMO! BEHOLD THE MAN!
Pilate believes Jesus is guilty of NOTHING, "therefore"he says he will have Him flogged and then present Him to the crowd. Jesus suffers the indignity of being stripped and being flogged at the pillar. Here He suffers humiliation and excruciating pain throughout His Body as it is torn and shredded by the Lash. He suffers this for all sins of the Flesh.


Then again He, the Lord of the World, is mocked and reviled by these rough and violent Roman soldiers, robed in one of their cloaks and a reed thrust in his hand as if it were a sceptre, and a crown of large cruel thorns thrust onto His Sacred Head, What an indignity for God Made Man.Here through those thorns He suffers for our sins of thought and intention.


Back to Pilate, where He sees Pilate reject the offer of conversion and hand Him over to the Mob, His loving care is thrown back in His Face. Now
 upon his terribly lacerated, aching , bleeding Body is thrust the rough, heavy wood of the Cross. The agonising procession over the bumpy cobble stones begins.Every step causes agony heightened by the bumping vibration of the timber over every cobblestone and bump and even His poor ears are made to suffer the cruel screech of the timber over stone way.His pain is compounded by His three heavy falls, dragging His garment across His terrible wounds, yet He still finds time and energy to compassionate with the women of Jerusalem, warning them of what is to come in A.D. 70.He suffers the Agony of meeting His Mother and seeing grief at the vile cruelty done to Him, when she knows too the horror to come.


THE CRUCIFIXION




Finally He reaches Calvary. Before the eyes of His Enemies the Temple Authorities , He is stripped naked- no indignity is to be spared the cruel assault continues as he is dragged across the Cross and hideously nailed by hands  and feet to it, and roped for support.Finally to heap cruelty upon cruelty, the Cross is pulled erect and thuds into the prepared hole.
The Lord of Life begins the long and final excruciating death on the Cross. Yet even here, whilst still suffering the cruel gibes of Jewish passers by , and seeing in His Mother's distraught  face and pained eyes the agony He already knew she was enduring, He magnanimously announces to the Good Thief that he is the first known Saint : "This day you will be with Me in Paradise"!(Luke 23 : 43) and He cares for the Earthly future of His Mother and each one of us with Saint John : " Woman behold thy son. ...Behold thy mother."( John 19: 26)


At the very end the last pain, to fulfil the prophesy He tastes the Gall offered to Him to drink and passes from this Life. 


The Lord of Life is DEAD.


The long path from to-day's Divine Incarnation begun with a Maiden's obedience to God's Will has ended as it was meant to do on the Sacrificial Cross. 


"AND I, IF I BE LIFTED UP, WILL DRAW ALL MEN TO ME !"( John 12 : 32 )







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