In the radiance of the Resurrection, the Church relates to the emotions of the first witnesses: grief, fear, bewilderment, and then exultation.
In each generation, believers experience all of these in various ways. On Good Friday our local custom is to meditate on the Seven Last Words, using meditations written by Blessed John Henry Newman. Because the reflections he wrote in the nineteenth century are so apposite to the history of the Church's trials and triumphs, listeners often think they were written just yesterday. The same is true of the Paschal Sequence: "Death and Life have contended / In that combat stupendous."
On Good Friday a faithful young priest I knew when he was a boy, died after a long illness, and at the same time, a girl was born to one of our families. Early on Easter morning one of our Sri Lankan worshipers told me of the massacre in Colombo. It is estimated that around our world a Christian is martyred every five minutes in odium fidei by those who hate Christ. During the cathedral fire in Paris, the rescue of the Blessed Sacrament (which the frail ecclesiology of The New York Times called "a statue of Jesus") was a triumph of life over death.
Over many years I have had recourse to an epitaph in an English church inscribed during the dark Puritan days of Cromwell's Protectorate: "In the year 1653 when all thinges Sacred were throughout ye nation Either demolisht or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, Founded this church; Whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in ye worst times, and hoped them in the most callamitous."
On Easter Day in that spirit, and at a time of no little tribulation in the Church and culture in general, we dedicated a new baldacchino to enhance our central altar. This was part of an ongoing project to furnish our church with art and craftsmanship representative of the unsurpassed aesthetic patrimony of Catholicism. Our funds are limited, so this was a work of devotion by the carpenters who attended the dedication, and our own parishioners, including the architect and sculptor. If friends of the parish continue to be generous, we can put our local talent to further use.
The High Priests and Pharisees told the Roman governor Pontius Pilate that Jesus had said that He would rise from the dead. They certainly did not believe that, but it made them edgy enough that they asked permission to seal the Tomb. The Living Word, however, always has the last word. Recall the admonition of one of Hannibal's soldiers after his victory at the battle of Cannae, when he hesitated to march on to Rome: "Vincere scis, victoria uti nescis." "You know how to win but you do not know what to do with the victory." May the Victorious Christ never have to say that about us.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Father George W. Rutler
Father George W. Rutler. "Jesus orchestrated a shabby spectacle." From the Pastor (April 14, 2019).
Reprinted with permission from Father George W. Rutler.
Father George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He has written many books, including: The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.Copyright © 2019 Father George W. Rutler
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