Christ, the Son of God, redeemed us with his blood. Come, let us adore him.
Liturgical Colour: Red.
|In other years: St Alphege (- 1012)|
St. Alphege became a monk at Deerhurst, Gloucestershire, about 970, and eventually Abbot of Bath. In 984 he became Bishop of Winchester where he was known for his personal austerity and almsgiving. The king sent him to parley with the Danish raider Anlaf, and this he did with such success that Anlaf never raided England again.
In 1005 Alphege became Archbishop of Canterbury. The Danes were raiding once more and in 1011 they besieged Canterbury and captured it. Alphege was imprisoned and an enormous ransom was asked for his release, which he forbade to be paid. On 19 April 1012, at Greenwich, his captors, drunk with wine, and enraged at ransom being refused, pelted him with bones of oxen and stones, till one of them, called Thurm, dispatched him with an axe. He was buried in St. Paul’s and by his death he became a national hero.
As an act of reconciliation Canute in 1023 translated the body to Canterbury where it was buried near the high altar. Later Lanfranc confirmed the cult, and had a Life and Office written in his honour, and Thomas Becket just before his death commended his cause to God and Alphege.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St John Chrysostom (349 - 407)|
John was born in Antioch. After a thorough education, he took up the ascetic life. He was ordained to the priesthood, and became a fruitful and effective preacher.
He was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 397, and was energetic in reforming the ways of the clergy and the laity alike. He incurred the displeasure of the Emperor and was twice forced into exile. When the second exile, to Armenia, had lasted three years, it was decided that he should be sent still further away, but he died on the journey, worn out by his hardships.
His sermons and writings did much to explain the Catholic faith and to encourage the living of the Christian life: his eloquence earned him the surname “Chrystostom” (the Greek for “golden mouth”).
|40 Days and 40 Ways: Good Friday|
“As the crowds were appalled on seeing him
– so disfigured did he look
that he seemed no longer human –
so will the crowds be astonished at him,
and kings stand speechless before him;
for they shall see something never told
and witness something never heard before” (Is 52: 14-15)
Is 52:13–53:12; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1-19:42
John’s narrative of the Passion is different from that of the synoptic Gospels in important respects. Some of these differences are matters of emphasis, others spring from a set of different facts. After Caiaphas’s decision no Jewish trial scene before the high priest, no meeting of a Sanhedrin to prepare a charge to put before Pilate, was necessary. Instead John gives an interrogation before Annas, the ex-high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas. The trial before Pilate may well be built on the same incident as that of the synoptics, but in John it is highly elaborated for theological reasons.
The Johannine account is not the story of a condemned criminal being dragged to the disgraceful and tortured death reserved for slaves. Jesus is the majestic king, who proceeds royally to his triumph in death. There is no painful prayer for release in Gethsemane. From the beginning it is stressed that Jesus is fully aware of what is to happen. Before he can be arrested his captors repeatedly fall to the ground in an involuntary gesture of reverence at Jesus’s pronouncement of the divine name, “I am”. Jesus commands them to let his followers go, and is taken only when he gives the word (18:11). The humiliating elements of the other accounts, such as buffeting, spitting and the challenge to prophesy, have disappeared. Jesus is emphatically declared king in the three great world languages by the very man who condemns him to death (19:20-22). John even notes that the proclamation was publicly acknowledged by “many of the Jews”. not only is Jesus king; he continues his role as revealer and judge as well. In the interview with Annas it is Jesus who challenges and questions the high priest, reiterating his own teaching which he has given for all the world to hear. Similarly at the trial before Pilate, Jesus questions the governor and shows his control, until Pilate collapses with the feeble evasion, “What is truth?” – a humiliating self-condemnation in this gospel of truth. The judgement reaches its climax when the Jewish leaders, in a formal and balanced scene, condemn themselves before Jesus: he is enthroned on the judgement seat as judge and crowned – with thorns – as king, still wearing the royal purple robe of his mockery, while they deny the very existence of Judaism by declaring, “We have no king but Caesar” (19:15). If the God of Israel is not universal king, then Israel has no point or purpose.
The final scene has special significance. Jesus carries his own cross, unaided, and is enthroned on it – no agonising details of nailing and hoisting – between two attendants. There is no final psalm quotation of seeming despair (as in Mark and Matthew) or of resignation (as in Luke), no wordless “great cry” as Jesus expires. In John Jesus prepares the community of the future. In contrast to the other Gospels, Mary and the Beloved Disciple stand at the foot of the cross and are entrusted to each other’s care to constitute the first Christian community, the woman and the man, the mother and the ideal disciple. This is cemented by the gift of the Spirit, as Jesus – with typical Johannine ambiguity – “gave over his spirit”. Does this mean “breathed his last” or “gave them the Holy Spirit”? Only then does Jesus consent to die, with the words, “It is fulfilled”.
Set aside a good time for prayer.
This passage is an extract from the booklet “40 Days and 40 Ways” by Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB, 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.
Red is the colour of fire and of blood. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate the fire of the Holy Spirit (for instance, at Pentecost) and the blood of the martyrs.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Isaiah 53:2-3 ©|
Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground. Without beauty, without majesty (we saw him), no looks to attract our eyes; a thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces; he was despised and we took no account of him.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Isaiah 53:4-5 ©|
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried. But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God, and brought low. Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Isaiah 53:6-7 ©|
We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us. Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.