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The Passion Triptych (Our Lady of Sorrows, Jesus Christ Extreme Humility, St John the Apostle)
“The Lord not only takes leave of the things of this world; he begins to see them disappear one by one. His body, his whole humanity become distant to him in a completely new way...He has to part from his disciples, and he recognizes how imperfect he leaves them behind... He has to part from his mission. The mission was to bring the world back to the Father...Humanely seen, not even a fragment of the total has been achieved...Everything that unites him with the Father and the Spirit is clouded over already by the shadow of the darkness of the Cross. Everywhere he hears the sound ‘too late.’ It is rolling toward him, is approaching...Taking leave of human bonds. Of his Mother, of the Beloved Disciple, of all these touching people who were attached to him and believed in him, for whom he worked miracles, whom he loved with full human affection. The more he gave them, the more he loved them. He loved them with a childlike heart....
Taking leave of prayer. The uninterrupted communion with the Father begins to break off. Everything recedes now into the land of estrangement...All his life long the Son lived on earth in twosomeness and threesomeness with the Father and the Spirit, but now he falls into the lonesomeness of being merely human, that very loneliness from which he wanted to redeem his fellowmen. His desire was to draw all men (people) into this prayer to preserve them from being forsaken. They were to be with the Father in the Spirit. But this is now taken away from the Son...All this is waiting outside the door, and the door will open. There are many doors, but whichever he chooses, it leads to the Passion.”
From “The Passion From Within” by Adrienne von Speyr
There are so many women and men theologians, and we all have our favorites.
I’m not reading Adrienne this year because I’m trying to stick with my favorite books on St Joseph:
“The Shadow of the Father” (also published as “Discovering St Joseph”) by Fr Andre Doze and
“The Life of St Joseph” by Sister Maria Baij, OSB
But during this season of the Passion I always return to the beautiful writing and brilliant insights of Adrienne. And I turn to the two Passions (John and Matthew) composed by J.S.Bach. Adrienne said something in one of her books which was so poignant, heartbreaking...that I never forgot it and use it in homilies all the time. But I couldn’t find the quote so I’ll have to tell it to you as I remember it. (So I’m obviously paraphrasing!) She said (hold onto your seats) that in Heaven, before the third person of the Blessed Trinity was sent to earth to take a body, “he” was so excited and anxiously awaiting the daily opportunity to tell humans about ,and literally show them the love of the Father. But once he got here, he was shocked at how far we are from God. And how little we wanted to know about God, as is evidenced in the Gospels. He is outright blocked, viewed with insidious jealousy, ridiculed, argued with continually and even called a demon. Any of us who want to bring the love of the Father know this anguished frustration. Part of it is we are broken vessels and easy to write off as so. But the other parts are that people can lack any semblance of humility and refuse to budge from their positions be they the right or left wings of the Church; if you are rigid or absolutist, there’s just no opening. I’m so fond of quoting G.B. Caird in his commentary on Luke, where he says something like “The only requirement for entrance into the kingdom is an emptiness only God can fill.”
I often joke that I was a lot smarter when I was young. Youth can be arrogant with the little knowledge they gain. But I’ve come to appreciate this time of my age where I find myself turning to God with so many unanswered questions and more than willing to wait. I think of St Francis at sunset on 3 October 1226, as he lay dying on the ground, naked, he covered his wound in his side and told those with him, “I have done what was mine to do. May God teach you what you are to do.” All this coming week we watch this innocent man we all love so deeply, go towards his Passion. This past year so many have lived through their own passions physically and spiritually. I know that this week will be like no other because of the many circumstances of this past year. And I am convinced that Graces will flow in some surprising and unexpected ways, because the outpouring of love of the Father never ceases.
Watching you again move toward Calvary and in most ways I feel terribly helpless in the face of the enormous pain and suffering of these days in our world. I can stand beneath the Cross, but I can’t take away the pain or get you or us... down off the Cross. But... I can stand and I won’t leave. And that, as a young man dying of AIDS once told me, is enough and truly comforting. I know there are new graces of life and hope you want to give us this year, just as you did in Advent and the Christmas season. Keep me open to receiving them, and may you continue to teach me what I am to do for you, my dear Lord.
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 28 March 2021