REFLECTIONS ON
THE “MEMORIA PASSIONIS”

(From a Passionist Oblate day at our monastery, August 9, 2008)

 

O SACRUM CONVIVIUM, in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis eius; mens impletur gratia et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.

O SACRED BANQUET, in which Christ is received, the memory of His
Passion is renewed
, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future
glory given to us.

 “Above all else, I rejoice in the Lord that you often find yourself plunged
and immersed in the Sacred Passion of Jesus and in the great furnace
of His Eucharistic Presence....” 
(St. Paul of the Cross)

 

 God’s Agape Love Revealed
in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus

 (We continue to draw our reflections from Pope John Paul II as well as the excellent book, Wellspring of Worship, by Fr. Jean Corbon, O.P.,  a major contributor to the Catholic Catechism.  If the Eucharist is the making present of the death and resurrection of Jesus, then it is important especially for Passionists to have an ever deeper understanding of it.)

  

Last month we reflected on God’s outpouring, self-giving, Agape love --
          that endless stream of Divine life and mercy ever springing forth from
          the throne of God and of the Lamb --
          and how this River of Life is present to us in the Holy Eucharist
          and the other sacraments.

Today, we reflect on how God’s Agape love is revealed in the death
          and resurrection  of Jesus,
          and how this love is made present to us in the Holy Eucharist
          in order to transform our hearts and lives.         

St. Paul of the Cross had an infused understanding of the Passion and death
          of Jesus as the work of God’s infinitely powerful love for us.
          To proclaim the Word of the Cross,
          to help people enter the mystery of the Wisdom of the Cross
          in their lives
          and to live in union with the One who died on the Cross---
          this was the great motivating energy of his life and work.

He wrote: “The Passion of Jesus is the greatest

          and most stupendous work of divine love.” 
          This event is meant to become more and more real to us and transformative
          for us as it was for Paul.

 Since the Holy Eucharist makes the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus
          intimately present to us, we will want to cultivate more and more
          our devotion to this incredible gift.
          We will want to take an active part in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
          and become completely “Eucharistic”
          by our willingness to take up the cross of our daily life
          and to reach out in works of mercy to the “crucifieds” of our time.

 “This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race
          that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after

          He had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there
.

         
Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it

          and inexhaustibly gain its fruits.”

         
(Pope John Paul II:  Ecclesia de Eucharistia #11)



A) The Cross - “He emptied himself....” 
(Phil 2:5-11)

The Kenosis (Self-emptying) of the Son of God that began
          at the Annunciation is completed in the cross.
          Jesus emptied Himself totally,
          accepting our human condition without reservation,
          including our death.
          “He loved them to the end”
(John 13:1)
          that is, to the extreme of which the love of a God-Man is capable.

Jesus is the only man not caught off guard by death, like a mere victim.
          He does not undergo death as something unavoidable.
          He does not try to escape it or struggle against it as we do.
          He goes to death with sovereign freedom.
          He wills it with His whole love for the Father and for us.
          “No one takes my life from Me; I lay it down of my own free will.” 

         
(John 10:18)

 His death was freely accepted.  It was a free sacrifice of love.
          The Church in Eucharistic Prayer II puts it this way:
          “Before He was given up in death, a death He freely accepted....

“The gift of His love and obedience to the point of giving His life
          is in the first place a gift to His Father.
          Certainly, it is a gift given for our sake...
          yet it is first and foremost a gift to the Father....” 

         
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia #13)

 The Incarnate Word freely offers Himself in sacrifice.
          When Jesus is arrested, He refuses to resist.
          When He is scourged, condemned, crucified, He forgives.
          He returns no violence because He does not will
          the death of the sinner.
          His non-violence is not weakness.  It is the transforming power of love.

His enemies want to destroy Him, but they end up raising (exalting) on high
          the true Tree of Life

          whose leaves have the power to heal them! 
(Rev 22:2 and John 3:14)

"It is precisely in this that God proves his love for us: that while we were still
          sinners, Christ died for us...for if, when we were God’s enemies, we
          were reconciled to him by the death of his Son,

          it is all the more certain that we who have been reconciled will be
          saved by his life.” 
(Romans 5:8, 10)

 At the moment when His kenosis is complete,
          the non-violence of His love is Almighty.

         
He dies in order to give life to those who crucified Him.

          In His death, divine life gushes forth for us.

Jesus pouring Himself out on the Cross is the revelation
          of God’s Agape love for us–

          “the most stupendous work of God’s love.” 
(St. Paul of the Cross) 

          We need to gaze long and lovingly at His face in these awesome
          mysteries of divine love, and enter within His Heart.
          Love is repaid by love alone.

"They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced through.”
             (Zec 12:10, John 19:37 and Rev 1:7)

St. Paul of the Cross would have us make this mystery our own through love:
“Love is a unifying virtue which takes upon itself the torments of its beloved
          Lord.  It is a fire reaching through to the inmost soul.
          It transforms the lover into the one loved.
          More deeply, love intermingles with grief and grief with love,
          And a certain blending of love and grief occurs.
          They become so united that we can no longer
          Distinguish love from grief nor grief from love.” 
(St. Paul of the Cross)

And as we gaze prayerfully at Jesus in this stupendous mystery of love we
          see that even in the darkness of Calvary, the outpouring,

          Agape love of the Blessed Trinity
          is shining forth in the Humanity of the Son of God.
          In the act of dying, Jesus gives Himself wholly to His Father;
          He hands over His Breath, His Spirit for us.

Jesus dies in an act of the utmost love, and this obedient,
          Self-emptying of the God-Man’s love redeems the world!
          It is this act of love in the Heart of Christ Crucified
          that we are to make more and more our own.
 

With Mary our Mother, we pray for the infusion of the Holy Spirit
          that we might know, truly know by loving experience
          Our Lord in the power of His resurrection
          and the fellowship of His sufferings. 
(cf Phil 3: 10)

At the moment of His death,
          the veil of the sanctuary is rent from top to bottom.
          The true “Holy of Holies” is thus revealed and we are invited in.

The divine energy of the River of Life, the Wellspring of Love,
          is now pouring forth from the Body of the Beloved Son, the slain Lamb
          and we are allowed to drink.

This is the most important event in human history.
          It is the beginning of the new creation.

The death and resurrection of Jesus are not two events.
          They are two phases of a single event and mystery.
          We call this the Paschal Mystery.

          And “The Church was born of the Paschal Mystery.
          For this very reason the Eucharist...stands at the center of the Church’s
          life.” 
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia #2)

“The Church draws her life from the Eucharist....
          The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that

          the Eucharistic Sacrifice
          is the source and summit of the Christian life.
          For the most Holy Eucharist contains
          the Church’s entire spiritual wealth:
          Christ Himself, our passover and living Bread.
          Through His own flesh, now made living and life-giving
          by the Holy Spirit,

          He offers life to men.”
  (Ecclesia de Eucharistia #1)



B) The Resurrection - Christ Becomes a Life-giving Spirit
(I Cor 15:45b, 2 Cor 3:17)

By His death and resurrection, Jesus opened paradise for us.

At the moment of the Resurrection,
           the Father fills the dead Body of His Beloved Son with His own Breath.
          The Body that rises living from the tomb is no longer a body that
          experiences human thirst.
          It is now and forever the Body of the Wellspring of Life.

 Pope John Paul speaks of the Paschal Mystery as being
          the “wellspring” of the Church.
          He continues:
The Paschal Triduum “is gathered up, foreshadowed and
          concentrated forever in the gift of the Eucharist.

          In this gift, Jesus Christ entrusted to His Church the perennial making
          present of the Paschal Mystery.
          With it, He brought about a mysterious oneness in time
          between that Triduum and the passage of the centuries.
          This thought should lead us to profound amazement and gratitude.

          In the Paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present
          throughout the centuries, there is a truly enormous capacity

          which embraces all of history
          as the recipient of the grace of the redemption.

          This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the
          celebration of the Eucharist.” 
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia #5)

Easter is the day of the new creation delivered from death.
          Jesus risen from the dead is the “Beginning”

          of the New Covenant struck by the Resurrection.

The consent of the Son to His eternal birth from the Father
          completely permeates the Body of His sacred Humanity.
          Jesus rises from the tomb as a “life-giving Spirit.”
(1 Cor 15: 45b, 2 Cor 3:17)

Let us not imagine this event as being a thing of the past!
          It did occur once and for all in history.
          But the resurrection of Jesus is not in the past,
          for if it were, this would mean Jesus did not conquer death.

The historical circumstances of His death are of the past,
          but the death of Jesus was by its very nature the death of our death.
          Once time is delivered from death, it no longer passes.

In #1085 of the Catholic Catechism we read:

In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that
Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced
his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When
his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass
away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right
hand of the Father ‘once for all.’   His Paschal mystery is a real event that
occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen
once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. the Paschal
mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his
death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is - all that he did and suffered
for all men - participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times
while being made present in them all.   The event of the Cross and
Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.

And from Pope John Paul II:
“The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross;
          it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it.
          What is repeated is its memorial celebration...
          which makes Christ’s one definitive redemptive sacrifice always
          present in time.

          The sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic mystery
          cannot therefore be understood

          as something separate, independent of the Cross,
          or only indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary.” 

         
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia #12)

Again, the Catholic Catechism tells us:
#
1104 Christian liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but
actualizes them, makes them present.  The Paschal mystery of Christ is
celebrated, not repeated.  It is the celebrations that are repeated, and in
each celebration there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes the
unique mystery present.

The event that is the cross and resurrection of Jesus does not pass away.
          [The sacrifice of Christ] “does not remain confined to the past,
          since all that Christ is, and all that He did and suffered for all men,
          participates in the divine eternity,

          and so transcends all times.” 
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia #11)

This “hour”of Jesus is not in the past.
          It simply is, it abides, it lives on throughout our time and sustains it. 
          It transcends time and space.

We recall once again what Pope John Paul said:
“This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race
          that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father
          only after He had left us a means of sharing in it
          as if we had been present there.
          Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it
          and inexhaustibly gain its fruits.
          This is the faith from which generations of Christians down the
          ages have lived.”
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia #11)

Since that moment [the event of the Paschal Mystery of Christ],
          the communion of the Blessed Trinity has unceasingly been spreading
          throughout our world,

          flooding our time with its fullness, and taking the form of liturgy. 

The Church, in Eucharistic Prayer III, calls the Eucharist
          “a holy and living sacrifice.”
          What we are offering to the Father is
          “the Victim whose death has reconciled us” to God.

Here in the Mass, as well as in our private Eucharistic adoration
          and in all our prayers, works, relationships and sufferings,
          we Passionists are meant to become more and more
          "devoted to the Passion of Jesus,”
          to this greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love,
          as St. Paul of the Cross put it.

We read in the Catholic Catechism’s section on prayer:
#
2655 In the sacramental liturgy of the Church, the mission of Christ and of
the Holy Spirit proclaims, makes present, and communicates the mystery of
salvation,
which is continued in the heart that prays. The spiritual writers
sometimes compare the heart to an altar. Prayer internalizes and assimilates
the liturgy during and after its celebration. Even when it is lived out "in
secret," prayer is always prayer of the Church; it is a communion with the
Holy Trinity.

In #50 of Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II expressed the hope that               
          the whole Church would become
          “a profoundly Eucharistic Church
          in which the presence of the mystery of Christ in the broken bread
          is as it were immersed in the ineffable unity of the three divine Persons
          making the Church herself an icon of the Trinity.” 
(Pope John Paul is
            referring to Rublev’s famous depiction of the Trinity, with the Eucharist at the heart.)

In #1109 of the Catholic Catechism we find these beautiful words:
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of
the Holy Spirit"  have to remain with us always and bear fruit beyond the
Eucharistic celebration. 
The Church therefore asks the Father to send the
Holy Spirit to make the lives of the faithful a living sacrifice to God by their
spiritual transformation into the image of Christ, by concern for the Church's
unity, and by taking part in her mission through the witness and service of
charity.
 

May this truly be the precious fruit the death and resurrection of Jesus
          bears in our hearts and lives!

 

*************************************************************

Prayer Starters:
1) Repeat with gentle love: “All that I want is to know Christ in the power of
His resurrection, to know how to share in His sufferings and to be formed in the
pattern of His death.”
(Phil 3:10)


2) Ponder:
“This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race
          that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father
          only after He had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been
          present there.
          Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it
          and inexhaustibly gain its fruits.

 
3) What difference at Mass would it make for you, if the truth expressed in
#2 really took hold of you?


4) What does sharing in His sacrifice mean?


5)  Ponder:
“He called the bread His living Body and He filled it with Himself
          and His Spirit....
          He who eats it with faith, eats Fire and Spirit....
          Take and eat this, all of you, and eat with it the Holy Spirit.
          For it is truly My Body and whoever eats it will have eternal life.” 

         
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia #17, quoting St. Ephrem)

 
6)  Words of Wisdom from Pope Benedict XVI:
         
“The Eucharist is our most beautiful treasure.  It is the sacrament par
excellence; it introduces us early into eternal life; it contains the whole
mystery of our salvation; it is the source and summit of the action and of the
life of the Church.
          “Therefore, it is particularly important that pastors and faithful
dedicate themselves permanently to furthering their knowledge of this great
sacrament.
          “I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great
mystery...so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery.  In this way,
each person will arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of
the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity. 
Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery.”


7)  These words from #478 of the Catholic Catechism contain riches that quiet
contemplative prayer can yield:
          “Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony, and
his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us.  ‘The Son of God…loved
me and gave himself for me.’ (Gal 2:20)  He has loved us all with a human
heart.  For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for
our salvation, is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of
that…love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal
Father and all human beings without exception.”

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