Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come, let us adore him.
Or: O that today you would listen to his voice: harden not your hearts.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: Violet.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Gregory Nazianzen (329 - 390)|
Gregory Nazianzen, “Gregory of Nazianzus”, was the son of Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, a Christian convert. (Nazianzus is a small town in Cappadocia, now the village of Nenizi in the Turkish province of Aksaray).
The culture of the Hellenic world means that a religion is not merely something to be lived: it also has to make sense. It has to work not only in practice, but in theory as well. Despite the passionate anti-Greek reaction of the Reformation, we are still, in this sense, all Greeks today. Take the doctrine of the Trinity, for example. Some people reject it because it sounds like polytheism. Instead, they make Jesus not God but only a man supremely favoured by God: the Arians believed this, and the Koran reflects this idea. Or they make Jesus not man but only God, and relegate the intense humanity of the Passion to the status of a mere performance, a show put on by God through phantoms and angels rather than something utterly real and of eternal significance. Both these responses show a general feature of heresies, which is that they simplify the richness of orthodoxy and flatten it into a shadow of itself. “Simpler” may well mean “more easily acceptable”, but that is not the same as “true”. One could simplify quantum physics and get rid of its paradoxes until there is no metaphysical weirdness for anyone to object to – that might well make more people happy, but it would not be true.
The three men we call “the Cappadocian Fathers” were active after the Council of Nicaea, working to formulate Trinitarian doctrine precisely and, in particular, to pin down the meaning and role of the least humanly comprehensible member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. St Basil of Caesarea, “St Basil the Great”, was the leader and organizer; Gregory of Nazianzus was the thinker, the orator, the poet, pushed into administrative and episcopal roles by circumstances and by Basil; and Gregory of Nyssa, Basil’s younger brother, although not a great stylist, was the most gifted of the three as a philosopher and theologian. Together, the Cappadocian Fathers hammered out the doctrine of the Trinity like blacksmiths forging a piece of metal by hammer-blows into its perfect, destined shape. They were champions – and successful champions – of orthodoxy against Arianism, a battle that had to be conducted as much on the worldly and political plane as on the philosophical and theological one. The sciences ought not to have to work like this, but all of them, at one time or other in their history, do.
It is a relief to us as readers to note, after all this, that St Gregory of Nazianzus, as well as receiving the title of Doctor of the Church, is acknowledged as the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age, and that this “style” does not adopt the over-ripe excesses of some late-imperial rhetoric (Augustine can get carried away in this direction sometimes, and Cassiodorus, in the sixth century, spends altogether too much of his time there). Gregory’s Second Readings do sound almost operatic at times, but the grandeur of the style does not exist for its own sake but comes from the splendour of its subject-matter. It is possible to be carried away by it, and enjoyable, even, to let that happen; but underlying the experience there is always a sense of being carried away in the direction of somewhere definite and somewhere worthwhile.
|40 Days and 40 Ways: Saturday, 3rd week of Lent|
Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us;
he has struck us down, but he will bandage our wounds;
after a day or two he will bring us back to life,
on the third day he will raise us
and we shall live in his presence. (Ho 6:1-2)
This reading strikes a vivid chord for two reasons. Firstly, in the early lines it seems to give a prophecy of the Resurrection after three days. The same verb is used for “raise up” as is used of the Resurrection of Christ. Strangely, however, this fulfilment of prophecy is never used in the new Testament, although so many little details of the life and death of Jesus are explained in the Gospels as fulfilling prophecies in the Old Testament. The expression “on the third day” can be used merely to mean ‘in a very short time’. It seems to have been Tertullian who first refers the verse to the Resurrection of Christ.
The second striking note is in the final couplet, “faithful love is what pleases me, not sacrifice”. “Faithful love”, the unbreakable love of the family, drawing each member of the family to spend himself or herself to the limit in order to rescue another family member, is the love promised by God to his people. He will never renounce them. On the other hand, the people have been preoccupied with offering vain sacrifices which did not express any true love or desire to follow God’s ways. Now, “sickened by their sacrifices”, God demands of them the same faithful love that he lavishes on them.
The Gospel reading of the day is Lk 18:9-14.
Is it time to start preparing for Easter Confession with an examination of conscience?
This passage is an extract from the booklet “40 Days and 40 Ways” by Henry Wansbrough, published by the Catholic Truth Society and used by permission. “40 Days and 40 Ways” has meditations for each day in Lent. To find out more about the booklet, or to buy it, please visit the CTS web site.
The Universalis Readings at Mass page shows the readings for today’s Mass.
|Liturgical colour: violet|
Violet is a dark colour, ‘the gloomy cast of the mortified, denoting affliction and melancholy’. Liturgically, it is the colour of Advent and Lent, the seasons of penance and preparation.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Apocalypse 3:19-20 ©|
I am the one who reproves and disciplines all those he loves: so repent in real earnest. Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Isaiah 44:21-22 ©|
Remember these things, Jacob, and that you are my servant, Israel. I have formed you, you are my servant; Israel, I will not forget you. I have dispelled your faults like a cloud, your sins like a mist. Come back to me, for I have redeemed you.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Galatians 6:7-8 ©|
What a man sows, he reaps. If he sows in the field of self-indulgence he will get a harvest of corruption out of it; if he sows in the field of the Spirit he will get from it a harvest of eternal life.