Notre Dame de Paris in Flames

The Tuesday of Holy Week dawns grim and grey. One of the most celebrated buildings of western Christendom has been gutted by fire. Anyone with a feeling for history, for beauty, for cultural significance must feel sadness at the loss of so much that has formed a backdrop to our lives. The cathedral has always been there. The role it has played in the life of the people of France and of Europe as a whole is incalculable. Inevitably, the media are busy capturing sound-bites from eye-witnesses and politicians, and it is good to see and hear acknowledgement of the courage of the firefighters and those who did their best to ensure that more was not lost; but we in England, at least, have heard nothing from those who are most deeply affected — the canons and parishioners who worship day by day at its altars, for whom the cathedral is a spiritual home rather than a glorious monument. Is it stretching things too far to say that something analogous can happen with Holy Week?

It is easy to make Holy Week a time of sharp contrasts, to spill a Caravaggio-like spotlight on Judas’s betrayal of Jesus and the anguished dialogue between Peter and his Lord that follows, for example, in today’s gospel (John 13.21–33, 36–38). Easy, but perhaps not quite right. Holy Week concentrates our attention on the meaning of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection; but we remember those events liturgically every day at Mass. What we bring to Holy Week is really the result of our fidelity and reflection at other times. Holy Week intensifies our experience, so to say, but it is not a substitute for the rest of the liturgical year.

The poignant images of Notre Dame de Paris in flames will not quickly be forgotten, even as the work of rebuilding begins. In the same way, we do not forget the betrayals and brutality of Holy Week during the rest of the year but use them as a spur to greater devotion to the central mysteries of our Faith and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.


True Glory: Tuesday of Holy Week 2016

‘Glorified’ is a word we rarely use today except in a dismissive or sarcastic sense, e.g. ‘a glorified B and B’ means an inferior hotel, a pretentious establishment with no substance to its claims. It is a word, however, that we shall hear again and again during Holy Week. Today it occurs in both Mass readings. In the passage from Isaiah, (Is 49.1–6), the Lord is quoted as saying ‘You are my servant (Israel) in whom I shall be glorified.’  In the gospel (Jn, 13.21–33, 36–38) as soon as Judas has gone out, Jesus says

Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.

The compilers of the lectionary wanted us to make the connection between the Servant and the Son, but is there something more, something this word ‘glorification’ and its analogues is meant to convey? What is the true glory here?

Clearly, the obedience of both the Servant and the Son is crucial to our understanding of what is going on. We sometimes forget that it was not Christ’s death as such that redeemed us but his obedience to the Father — which necessarily involved death on the Cross. The vocation of the Servant in Isaiah transcends his own earlier imaginings, his all-too-human conception of success and failure; so too with the Son. At the very moment Judas sets out to betray him, Jesus utters his passionate declaration that he is already glorified, that God is glorified in him. As so often in John, the words read like the choreography of a divine embrace, with Father and Son rapt in love and mutual trust and understanding. For now, we are outside, we cannot follow, we cannot share. Like Peter, we protest our love and devotion, but to no avail. Only when the Son of Man is lifted up will he draw all to himself. Only then will we too be glorified in him and share that divine embrace.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail