Crux fidelis

Good Friday CrossA beautiful hymn with great theological depth, Crux fidelis is a 6th century composition by Mamertus Claudianus, according to Dom Prosper Gueranger’s Liturgical Year.

You can listen to it chanted in Latin here.

And here is the translation as it appears in the current edition of the Roman Missal:

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare. Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear!

Sing, my tongue, in exultation of our banner and device! Make a solemn proclamation of a triumph and its price: how the Savior of creation conquered by His sacrifice!

(Repeat) Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

For, when Adam first offended, eating that forbidden fruit, not all hopes of glory ended with the serpent at the root: broken nature would be mended by a second tree and shoot.

(Repeat) Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear! 

Thus the tempter was outwitted by a wisdom deeper still: remedy and ailment fitted, means to cure and means to kill; that the world might be acquitted, Christ would do His Father’s will.

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

So the Father, out of pity for our self-inflicted doom, sent Him from the heavenly city when the holy time had come: He, the Son and the Almighty, took our flesh in Mary’s womb.

Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear! 

Hear a tiny baby crying, Founder of the seas and strands; see His Virgin Mother tying cloth around His feet and hands; find Him in a manger lying tightly wrapped in swaddling-bands!

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

So He came, the long-expected, not in glory, not to reign; only born to be rejected, choosing hunger, toil and pain, till the scaffold was erected and the Paschal Lamb was slain.

Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear! 

No disgrace was too abhorrent; nailed and mocked and parched He died; blood and water, double warrant, issue from His wounded side, washing in a mighty torrent earth and stars and oceantide.

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

Lofty timber, smooth your roughness; flex your boughs for blossoming; let your fibers lose their toughness, gently let your tendrils cling; lay aside your native gruffness, clasp the Body of your King!

Sweet the timber, sweet the iron, sweet the burden that they bear! 

Noblest tree of all created, richly jeweled and embossed; post by Lamb’s Blood consecrated, spar that saves the tempest-tossed; scaffold-beam which, elevated, carries what the world has cost!

Faithful Cross the Saints rely on, noble tree beyond compare! Never was there such a scion, never leaf or flower so rare.

Wisdom, power, and adoration to the Blessed Trinity for redemption and salvation through the Paschal Mystery, now, in every generation, and for all eternity. Amen.

Advertisements

Engaging the Gospel – Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord (Year B): Gospel – Mark 1:7-11

Humility is the leitmotif of Sunday’s Gospel. St John the Baptist embraces his role as forerunner, humbly serving the One Who is to come. Jesus humbly lowers Himself — the Holy One, perfectly sinless, stoops to accompany the repentant sinners — to be baptized by John.

“Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of His self-emptying,” as the Catechism (1224) notes, for He “voluntarily submitted Himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to fulfill all righteousness.

The baptism of Jesus is on His part the acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows Himself to be numbered among sinners; He is already the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world. Already He is anticipating the ‘baptism’ of his bloody death…submitting himself entirely to His Father’s will: out of love He consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.

— paragraph 536.

While the baptism of John was a sign of repentance, it is fundamentally different from the sacrament of Baptism instituted by Jesus, as John himself points out (Mark 1:8).

Jesus has sanctified the waters for our Baptism, whereby the treasures of sanctifying grace are lavished upon us. It is through this sacrament that we are cleansed of sin, made “a new creature” in Christ, and brought into the intimate life of the Holy Trinity (1264-65).

Through Baptism, the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus….The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with Him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father’s beloved son in the Son and walk in newness of life.

— paragraph 537.

Question for reflection: In what ways do I try to practice the virtue of humility?

Engaging the Gospel – John 1:29-34

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time — Gospel: John 1:29-34

John the Baptist hails Jesus as the Lamb of God

Today’s Gospel gives us further insight into the Baptism of Jesus, and enriches our understanding of its role in salvation history.

By proclaiming Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” St. John the Baptist identifies him as the fulfillment of Scripture.

He “reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant [prophesied by Isaiah] who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover” (Catechism paragraph 608).

Moreover, the Spirit’s coming upon Jesus is an explicit mark of the Messiah.

“In the Old Testament, the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God” (1286).

For these reasons, Jesus’ Baptism is another “epiphany,” or manifestation of Him as the Messiah and Son of God.

Jesus continues to manifest Himself to us at every Mass, preeminently through the Eucharist, and we echo John’s words as we hail Him as the Lamb of God.

As St. Gregory of Nyssa (d. ca. 394/5) observed, the Eucharist completes the sacrifice of the Lamb, when Jesus gives “His own Body to His disciples for eating” (Sermon One on the Resurrection of Christ).

Question for reflection: How do I discern the presence of Christ?

Jesus’ Passion and Death

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 595-637:

  • Jesus’ Passion — from the Latin word for “suffering” — and His death on the Cross were not caused by chance or circumstances, but rather formed part of the mystery of God’s plan.
  • From all eternity, God foreknew how individual human beings would act according to their free will; yet out of pure love, the Father still chose to send the Son, and Jesus willingly embraced His self-sacrifice for us.
  • Sin brought death into the world, but Jesus used His own death to conquer death, defeat the power of evil, and liberate us from both sin and death.
  • Jesus absorbed the whole horror of the world’s evil when taking our sins upon Himself; His mental and spiritual anguish, as witnessed in the agony in the garden, added immeasurably to the excruciating physical pain He suffered.
  • Jesus died for each and every individual human being who has ever lived, and will ever live, over the entire sweep of history — for each one of us personally, not just for a faceless mass of humanity in general.
  • Hence all of us, as sinners, are the authors of His Passion; for this reason it is wrong to focus blame on the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time, or any other individuals who were involved in His trial and crucifixion.
  • After Jesus died, He descended into the realm of the dead to free the spirits of the holy ones who had been waiting for the Savior to open the way to heaven; this signifies that Jesus’ redemptive action extends to people of all times and places.
  •  Jesus is able to bring about perfect atonement for our sins, and reconcile us with God, because He is both God and man; therefore Jesus is the unique and definitive sacrifice.
  •  Jesus completes and surpasses the sacrifices of the Old Covenant: He is the Lamb of God slain for us in the ultimate Passover (Paschal) sacrifice, and He fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant, whose death brings about redemption.
  • Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a perpetual memorial of His once-for-all sacrifice: at the Last Supper, He anticipated His voluntary offering to the Father, and with the command to “Do this in memory of me,” He established the sacrifice of the New Covenant.

Live Your Faith

We reflect on Jesus’ suffering, not only to feel sorrow for our sins, but to absorb the depth of His love for us.

He could have redeemed us in countless other ways. Yet He chose to go to the furthest extremity, sparing nothing, pouring Himself out entirely, that we might never doubt His love.

It is this very sacrifice, accomplished once for all, that we experience at Mass — not by repeating what happened at Calvary all over again, but by Christ’s single sacrifice being made present to us, so that we enter into the mystery of our redemption.

This understanding of a “memorial” is deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture. We glimpse it in Israel’s celebration of Passover, which is not a simple act of calling to mind, but a making-present of the saving events that had already occurred in time.

Let us respond to Jesus’ great love by dedicating ourselves unreservedly to Him.