Back

Vol. I, Mar. 1995

 

The Holy Liturgy

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The holy liturgy, our spiritual guide (cf. CCC. Nr. 1095), leads us this month into the season of Lent. How should we live it?

1. For years now, our Holy Father goes ahead of his flock with the Cross of Christ as his pilgrim and shepherd’s staff: supporting himself on his pilgrim staff, and pointing out to us the way with his shepherd’s staff. For Christ Crucified is our Redeemer, and from the Cross (the staff of life) radiates the eternal wisdom. Christ, from the time He came into the world until He left it, always had this light and orientation before His eyes: salvific obedience unto the Cross.

"When Christ came into the world, He said, ‘I have come to do Thy will, O God’" (Heb 10,5. 7). And when "He came to His own home, His own people received Him not" (Jn 1,11). Not only was He sent away from the city, but from the country as well, "because there was no place" for Him among His own people. And so we may say, that from the very beginning, as He set out upon the way of salvation, His life was already a "way of the Cross", even from His infancy, inasmuch as Herod had already condemned Him to death (cf. Mt. 2,8. 16). He took up His Cross and went forth.

The liturgical readings also show His sufferings during His public life, in which He assumed His mission. For example, in His duty to His Father: He met with the hardheartedness of the Chosen People (cf. Mt. 8,10); He had to confront the pride, mistrust and even falsity of the High Priest (cf. Mt 9,11. 34; 22,15; Mk 11,18), and besides being betrayed by one of His Apostles, before the Ascension, even after His victorious resurrection, there were those among His disciples who doubted Him (cf. Mt 28,17).

Let us recall these lessons, when our own wounded, lonely hearts long for an echo of response, a sign of gratitude for the laborious hours we have spent sowing the seed of God with seemingly little hope for a harvest, to say nothing of the coldness, reproach and rejection we may gather instead. Christ’s ‘power’ is built upon the invincible love that can transform these painful defeats into victory.

2. Considering tranquilly the Lord’s life, we come to see that the Cross was not an obstacle on His way, something to be avoided, but rather part of the firm ground upon which He walked forward. Three times He foretold His suffering, death and resurrection (Mt. 16,231; 17,22f; 20,18)! Clearly, He affirmed, "I lay down my life for the sheep... and no one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord... this charge I have received from My Father" (Jn 10,15. 18). "The Son of Man came" with this intention and finality, "not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20,28) -- a mystery which scandalizes His is followers, but into which the holy angels long to look (cf. 1 Pt 1,12).

The Holy Father comments on this self-presentation of Christ: "The service of Jesus achieves its total plenitude with His death on the Cross, that is, with the total self abandonment in humility and love... The authority of Jesus Christ as Head coincides, therefore, ... with His total, humble and charitable surrender to the Church ... in perfect obedience towards the Father: He is the unique true Suffering Servant of God, and at the same time, priest and sacrifice" (John Paul II. Pastores dabo vobis, 21,3).

The Cross, suffering, misunderstanding, opposition, persecution, suspicion, sickness, fatigue, obedience, poverty, loneliness, abandonment and so many other facts of our daily life are, therefore, just the many faces of the one mystery: the law of life for a disciple of Christ, the mystery of crucified love: "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it... For the Son of Man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man for what he has done" (Mt 16,24-27).

Accordingly, is there any other recommendation or admonition the bishop could have put to us at our ordination than this: "Imitate what you perform, and put your life under the mystery of the Cross!" (pastores dabo vobis, 24,4)? What should our lives be, if His was the life of crucified love (cf. CCC. 530)?

3. Our life as a priest, as long or short as it may be, has already taught us Who Christ is, He to Whom we were consecrated in holy ordination: the Crucified! But our life-story also tells us how easily we forget this. In the decisive moments we try not to remember, and so apply in our daily life the law of this world instead of Christ’s wisdom, the Mystery of the Cross.

When the faithful come with their questions, when we have to decide between the offers of this world and the silent petitions of the Lord, where is it that we direct our sheep? "For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" (1 Cor 1.18. 21). True ‘pastoral love’ finds its example and source in Jesus Christ, Who lead it to its perfection in an exterior and interior surrender of life on the Cross (cf. Pastores dabo vobis, 30.7).

There is, therefore, no other way to be a true priest of Christ, an authentic ‘ALTER CHRISTUS’ than by uniting ourselves with Christ Crucified and with the ‘mind of Christ’ (cf. 1 Cor 2,16). There is no other way to reorientate our priesthood on the model of the one priest, Jesus Christ, than by going into the Garden of Olives and walking up to Calvary with Him. Just as our will depends upon the orientations given by the understanding, so does the interior participation in our priestly actions depend upon the orientation received through meditation and reflection.

4. This fundamental truth and necessity find their concrete place in our priestly Association in the accent we want to give to the hours of the Suffering of our Lord each week. It was Thursday night when Jesus took His Apostles with Him to the Garden; and it was Friday afternoon, when He expired on the Cross.

So every member in the Association is invited (expected) to accompany our Lord and remain united with Him weekly in this time of His unique and eternal priestly sacrifice in a special, intensified form: interiorly placing before our mind the different steps of His Passion (the agony, the abandonment, the betrayal at midnight, the denial of Peter,... and in the morning, the scourging around nine, the condemnation, the carrying of the Cross and the three hours of crucifixion from noon on.

As we said, the mind orients the will, but only after the will has first consented to the mind’s direction. These sanctifying and transforming reflections on the Passion of our Lord, which promise to make holy priests of us, can only be made possible by an initial commitment of the will to make provision for this silent, leisure time during the hours of the Passio Domini by externally avoiding appointments, committee meetings for Thursday evening, by scheduling our free day here, by taking our schedule in advance and marking an ‘appointment’ with our Lord, so that we can stay ‘at least one hour’ between 9 and 12 P.M. with Him in the Garden (cf. Mt 26,40f). Best of all, would be to pass this hour with Him in His physical presence in the Blessed Sacrament. The angel is waiting for us there with the chalice of strength we so dearly need (cf. Lk 22,43)!

Such quiet time should not only help us to get away and rest a while in our Lord’s presence (cf. Mk 6,31); it should give us an opportunity to say our office in a real state of recollection and union with Christ, to recite our daily rosary reflectively. In this way, we are ‘with Him’. Time and experience will teach us how much He expects us to listen to Him, to have His mind among ourselves (cf. Phil 2,5), reading the scriptural passages on His Passion and meditating in silent, loving attention how much pain it cost Him to redeem us.

Let us start in this Lent with this Holy Hour every single Thursday night, attending to this call of the Lord, "pray and watch with Me". We could begin with our "Priest’s prayer"; it will be a powerful hour, knowing that we are all united together with Christ in the Garden, abandoning ourselves again totally to the Will of the Father as we did at the hour of our ordination!

For the study and reflection on the monthly day of recollection, we suggest a rediscovery of the human sufferings of Christ during His earthly life throughout the gospels; a presentation about the Sufferings of Christ; its celebration during the Sacred Triduum; and some pastoral suggestions for the parish life (cf. CCC Nr. 1438 and CIC can. 1250).

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC