Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's The Incarnation!

"It's not the Resurrection, dammit! It's the Incarnation! But we don’t believe it. We don’t believe we are invited to become the very life of God!

Fr. Godfrey Diekmann, OSB (1908-2002), one of the architects of Sacrosanctum Concilium/Constitution On the Sacred Liturgy, the first completed work of Vatican Council II, shouted out the above words during a dinner conversation with students at St. John's University, Collegeville, MN. I believe most folks who've thought long and hard about this will get the drift of what he meant. Such a person is Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM who, in his new book, Immortal Diamond, spells this insight out in a clear, creative and exciting way. I heartily recommend it.

Such ideas as Frs. Diekmann and Rohr have put forth set me thinking about and approaching Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum with a fresh understanding. So often in the past I've simply assumed that one starts Holy Week with emphasis on remembering the suffering and death of Jesus, and while that certainly is a major part of the whole mystery of salvation, I've come to believe that emphasizing more the ultimate reality of what Jesus has already accomplished for humankind through his love can lend itself in Lent/Holy Week/Easter to a more fruitful celebration of these mysteries. I experienced the Liturgy of the Palms in a whole new way this morning. "Blessed is the One who comes in the name of God. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" was the initial shout. The same tone continued in the Collect where we asked the "God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby [God has given us] life and immortality, through Jesus Christ our Savior." In the reading from Luke 19:28-40, Jesus sends two of the disciples to fetch a colt in the village. I'd never really thought about the words: "Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' just say this, "The Lord needs it.'" God's creation, even animals, was so important to Jesus that he "needed" this colt, one that had never been ridden before. The donkey was an ancient symbol of royalty, but one of a sovereign coming in peace, as Zechariah 9:9-10 attests: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you' triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey..." Matthew's account alludes to God's creation also as useful in welcoming the Lord of life when he notes that "others cut branches from trees and spread them on the road..." Luke, however, speaks of God's human creation of "people... spreading their cloaks on the road." In a take-off on this text in a delightful sermon, 8th century Bishop and hymnographer, Andrew of Crete, exclaims: "Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments,..but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish...let us spread before his feet...ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him..." Finally, Luke has Jesus answering those adversaries who would stop the crowd's adulation: "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." In other words, all of God's creation, even the inorganic, has a potential role in welcoming Jesus the Messiah into the City of Peace: a concept that would've warmed the heart of a man like Teilhard de Chardin!

 In conjunction with the Epistle from Philippians 2:5-11, the Liturgy of the Palms conveys to us how boundless and extreme is God's creative love for you and me. Not only are we, with all creation, called this week to exult in the joy of what Jesus has done for us through his humility in the Incarnation, but also to exult in God's lifting us up with Jesus to God's own glory, which is ultimately, of course, resurrection to eternal life, as the prayer concluding the Liturgy of the Palms notes: "...mercifully grant that in all the pain and struggle of life we may learn by his example that humility is divinity, thereby sharing in his resurrection..."

"Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

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