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Archive for the ‘Bible study’ Category

gesu_030

Both Luke and John describe post-Resurrection encounters where the disciples didn’t recognise Jesus until they’d spoken to him, or where he didn’t look as they remembered but they somehow knew it was him. Various people have speculated about why this might be so. I wonder why Luke and John recorded it. No. That’s not quite true. I assume they recorded it because it was true. What I wonder is why people think the writers of Luke and John might have invented such an unnecessary and confusing detail. One is a skilled story-teller; the other scholarly writer. Such a narrative blunder seems highly unlikely.

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“As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them. ..Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (St Jerome, from a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

In a few weeks, they went from a broken group of disappointed men and women, hiding behind locked doors in an upper room, to fervent evangelists, ready to proclaim their faith out loud in the synagogue and the marketplace, and to die for it if they needed to do so.

To me, this seems strong evidence that they believed they had witnessed everything that Jerome talks about above. Their belief in the resurrection makes sense of the survival of Christianity past its early start as a persecuted minority favoured by the lowest classes. Does this ‘prove’ the resurrection? No, of course not. You are free to believe with the disciples or not to believe. Does it explain the reason for the resurrection? No, again. For that, we look to the Church, and 2000 years of meditation from devout, thoughtful, and intelligent men and women.

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B36_Fra_Angelico_DescentFrom the Office of Readings – an excerpt from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday…

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

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I-Thirst

See, here’s the thing. According to the Gospels, Jesus and his disciples took only three cups during the Passover meal. It was with the third one, the cup of redemption (also called the cup of blessing), that Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. And he said then that he wouldn’t drink again until he came into his kingdom.

On the cross, in the middle of Friday afternoon, he called out that he was thirsty, and when he’d taken a drink of the rough soldier’s mix of wine and vinegar they offered him, he said ‘It is finished’, and died.

What does it all mean? According to a theory put forward by theologian Scott Hahn, the drink on the cross was the fourth cup of the Passover. Hahn suggests that what Jesus completed by drinking it – what was finished – was the Passover meal, and also its transmogrification into the Eucharist. (The article I’ve linked to is the short version. In his full presentation, Hahn goes into a lot of detail, including the physical and medical reasons why actual thirst was unlikely.)

If this view is correct, not only does it highlight how the Eucharist and the Cross are inextricably bound together, we also need to rethink what Christ meant about coming into his kingdom.

The fourth cup of the passover, by the way, is the Cup of Restoration, based on God’s promise: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.”

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The stations of the cross are a particularly suitable meditation for today. The Internet has a plethora of good online opportunities to meditate the stations. This one is very simple and moving.

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