(Fr. Cyprian) This is the most amazing line: He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. We hear in two stories in a row in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 24:13-48) at Mass, the disciples on the road to Emmaus and then the following scene where Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room, and explains how everything written in Moses and the prophets and the psalms is written about him, about the Messiah. This was a whole new thing for them, we may not realize, to associate the Messiah with suffering and death. “Pre-Christian Judaism including the disciples during Jesus’ lifetime, never envisaged the death of the Messiah,” and so they obviously never thought of his resurrection.[1] So the death and resurrection puts everything behind it in a new perspective. As we say so often about Mark’s Gospel, that the disciples were not going to understand Jesus’ words until he suffered, died and rose again, so even more the texts we hear now during the Easter season, especially a reading like this from the Acts of the Apostles,[2] could almost be seen as mystagogical texts, the apostles themselves looking back on Scripture from the optic of Easter, but also looking ahead to the universal restoration which God spoke of through the holy prophets from of old. And of course this is where we inherit our Christological reading of the Hebrew Scriptures; we do it just as the first disciples did. The patristic and monastic writers spoke of hearing––or at least listening for––the voice of Christ in the psalms, for example. They thought that the psalms were either speaking about Christ or addressing Christ, or else that the words of the psalms were Christ addressing the Father or the people. We hear Psalm 16 so often in this season, a good example of how this makes all new sense looking back on the resurrection: You will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay’!” I especially have that sense during our “black vigils” on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, imagining the words of the psalms that we recite on the lips of Jesus tied up in a prison cell or whatever kind of consciousness there was in the darkness of the tomb, and they come alive to me in a whole new way. During the octave we always hear the Song of Songs at Vigils, and I am always so moved imagining those wrods as jesus’ won words addressed to the individual soul: ‘Arise, my beloved one… the winter is past, the flowers appear on the earth.’ One of the lesser known texts...

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(Fr. Cyprian) There’s a story I heard recently about a monastery in North Africa. A young tribal man used to come around the community often trying to figure out what these robed men were doing all day. Gradually he started asking questions and so the monks would explain different aspects of their life to him and various bits and pieces about Christianity. At one point one of the monks decided to give the young man a Bible and told him to start reading the Gospels. Well, the young man came back a few days later visibly irritated. The monk who had given him the Bible asked him what was the matter, the young man waved the Bible at him and said, “It says in here that he came back from the dead!” “Well, yes,” the monk replied. “Why are you so upset?” And the young man said, “Why didn’t you tell me that at the beginning?!” I do think that we are a little embarrassed about the resurrection, maybe because we get all caught up in the science or the pseudo-science of it, and in doing so we miss the whole point of the story. At a popular level, it’s a lot easier to shift the attention to Christmas, as if that were the high point of the Christian year; the little baby is something with a lot more universal appeal than this awkward myth of someone coming back from the dead. A lot of times we hear that the gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark, are simply an introduction to the Passion narratives, and you could get that impression from films about Jesus, too. But no: the Gospels, even the Passion narratives, are really long introductions to the Resurrection. You could almost say the rest of the gospel is a kind of a flash back. I’ve yet to see a film about Jesus where they show the resurrection first and then go back and tell the story, but I think that would be most fitting. “Why didn’t you tell me that at the beginning?” Even all through the celebrations of the Easter Triduum, we already know the ending, and that’s what makes them so full of joy and anticipation. So let’s relocate Easter and Jesus’ resurrection, and recognize it as the high point of our Christian year, because it is! It’s the supernova, it’s the explosion at the very center of our faith, and all our hope and love are based on this. Let’s let go of the science and the pseudo-science around it and just stand in awe before the mystery of it, because without the resurrection...

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washing feet


Posted By on Apr 17, 2014

(Fr. Cyprian) What I have always loved about being a part of a sacramental tradition such as Catholicism is the belief we have that God can and does work through tangible objects, that matter––material things––reveal God’s face in some way. We get teased about all our “smells and bells,” but that’s okay. Yes, smells and bells, cloth and flowers, statues and paint, music and dance, bread and wine, water and oil––bring ‘em on! The Spirit uses all these things to reveal the divine to us, and we use all these things to recognize the divine present and active in our world, in our life. One of the problems that the reform of the liturgy in the 2nd Vatican Council addressed was actually trying to make those symbols become more alive yet because often they had been reduced to a mere shadow of an actual tangible symbol. The bread of the Eucharistic feast had become little wafers and the wine was a little bit consumed only by the priest. Now we have seen the emphasis on the bread really looking like bread! And I think the move toward glass flagons of wine was even so that people could see––and consume!––the real wine. Baptism had become a few drops of water on an infant’s head; whereas now the emphasis has been on even up to full immersion, so we really get the sense that there is a kind of a death experience going on at Baptism, drowning in the waters and coming back up alive in a new way, a new person. In this way the signs and symbols can actually convey their meaning more easily, concretely, in the transforming power of ritual. Oh yes, we believe that the grace of God is there either way in the sacrament, but still, it is easier for us to enter in and participate when the symbols are vibrant and alive. And there is no symbolic sacramental liturgical gesture more bald and striking than this one, the washing of the feet. At the Eucharist you can get away with something that barely resembles real bread and you can leave out offering the consecrated wine to the assembly, and at Baptism you can get away with a polite couple of drops of water. But on Holy Thursday the presider really has to wash peoples’ feet. I struggle with what words to use, since I was the one called upon to make this gesture today––the person entrusted with the most authority in the community, the head of the household (worthy as he may be or not), the leader of the assembly, is commanded to do an...

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