The”Look”of Jesus

I have a large Icon of Christ in my room (see right). What icons from the Eastern tradition do best is to capture “the Look.” No matter where I move in the room Christ is looking right at me. His look is intense, though not severe. In the Eastern spirituality Icons are windows into heaven. Hence this icon is no mere portrait that reminds one of Christ, it is an image which mediates his presence. When I look upon him, I experience that he knows me. It is a knowing look and a comprehensive look.

The Book of Hebrews says of Jesus, No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. (Heb 4:13). But his look in the Icon is not fearsome, it is serene and confident. Hence the text from Hebrews goes on to say, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Heb 4:14-16)          

Particularly in Mark’s Gospel there is great emphasis on the eyes and the look of Jesus. A frequent expression in that Gospel is “And looking at them He said….”  Such a phrase or version like it occurs over 25 times in Mark’s Gospel referring to Jesus. Looking on Christ, and allowing him to look on you is a powerful moment of conversion. Jesus himself said, For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn 6:40) and the First Letter of John says, What we shall later be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed  we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is(1 Jn 3:2).

Keep looking to the Lord in this Easter season, especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament and also in the art that most moves you. Look at him and let him look at you.

This video is a wonderful collection of  many of the looks of Jesus and the reaction of the people that follows that look. Pay special attention to it. The video also features a lot of “looks” that come from us. Notice how people look upon Jesus, and how they as human beings react as they look on Jesus. Look for the “looks” in this video. The final looks are especially moving.

Good Friday: Ten Thousand Angels Cried

This song is an interesting speculation to pray about. When Peter had tried to defend Jesus by taking up a sword, Jesus waved him off and said, Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Matt 26:53) This song meditates on the sorrow of the angels on Good Friday that they could not come to the Lord’s defense. It’s a little sentimental since there is no revelation that Angels can or do cry. Still, it is worth a listen.

Is He Your King? Jesus’Trial Before Pilate

                     GOOD FRIDAY – All through the night Jesus has been locked in the dungeon of the high priest’s house. Early this morning he was bought before a Pilate who transferred his case to Herod. Herod sent him back to Pilate who, sometime in the mid-morning, bowed to the pressure of the Temple leadership and the crowds, and condemned Jesus to a horrible death by crucifixion. In the late morning Jesus was taken by the soldiers through the city and up the hillside of Golgotha. By noon he is nailed to the cross where he hangs in agony for some three hours. He dies around three in the afternoon. He is taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb hastily before sundown. Today is a day of prayer, fasting and abstinence. Whenever possible, Christians are urged to keep today free of work, of social engagements, of entertainment, and to devote themselves to communal prayer and worship. At noon many parishes gather for stations of the cross for recollections of the seven last words of Jesus. Many parishes also offer stations of the cross at 3pm the hour of Jesus death. In the evening, we gather quietly in our parish Churches to enter into time of prayer as we reflect on Jesus death on the cross. We also pray for the needs of the world. To acknowledge the power of the cross in our lives today, we one by one come forward to venerate the cross with a kiss. Our hunger from this day of fasting is satisfied with Holy Communion distributed at the end of this liturgy.Consider too how the apostles might have gathered that night together in fear and prayer reflecting on all that happened.

The following video depicts Jesus and Pilate. It is from the movie The Gospel of John.Notice how Jesus turns the tables on Pilate. Although Jesus is on trial, he ends up putting Pilate on trial! Notice too how many times Pilate goes in and out of Praetorium (Audience Hall). At least four times! He is vacillating. He knows Jesus is innocent of the charges. But in the end, out of fear, he suppresses his conscience and hands Jesus over.  Pilate had wanted to avoid committing to Jesus one way or the other. But he, like you and me had to make a decision. You might say he goes from vacillation to assassination!

Notice particularly the question Pilate wrestles with over Jesus’ Kingship. He asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” But Jesus will not answer. This is a question Pilate must answer. It is a question you and I must answer. And so Jesus says, “Are you saying this on your own or have others been saying this to you?” In other words am I a King becuase you say so or are you just saying what others say? Only Pilate can aswer if Jesus is a king. Only you and I can answer for ourselves. Is he your King?

Walking with Jesus in Holy Week – A daily Calendar

At the heart of our faith is the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ. All of salvation history leads up to and goes forth from these saving events. The purpose of this post is to describe Jesus’ Final week. We call this “Holy Week” for Jesus’ public ministry culminates with his suffering, death and resurrection. What follows is a brief description of each day of Holy Week. It is hoped that you might print out the pdf flyer (Walking-with-Jesus-In-Holy-Week) and read it each day of this week. Prayerfully walk with Jesus in his most difficult and yet glorious week. Plan to attend some or all of the special liturgies of Thursday, Friday and Saturday at your parish. By celebrating them in community, we make them present today and learn again, in a new way, the reality of our Risen Lord alive in our midst.

PALM SUNDAY – Our celebration of Holy Week begins this Sunday as we remember and make present the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem to begin his final week and initiate his Passion. All four Gospels recount this triumphant entry that Sunday Morning so long ago, but made present to us today. As you receive your palms, consider that you are part of that vast crowd. How will you journey with Jesus this week? Let the palm remind you to praise him with your prayerful presence during the sacred Triduum. According to Mark 11:11 Jesus returned that evening to Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem. Perhaps he stayed with his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Pray with Jesus this evening as he considers the difficult days ahead of him.

Monday of Holy Week  According to Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 19, Jesus returns to Jerusalem today and, seeing shameful practices in the Temple area, he cleanses the Temple. John’s Gospel also records that he rebuked the unbelief of the crowds. Mark 11:19 records that he returned to Bethany that night. Pray with Jesus as he is zealous to purify us.

Tuesday of Holy Week According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus again returns to Jerusalem where he is confronted by the Temple leadership for what he did yesterday. They question his authority. He also teaches extensively using parables and other forms. There is the parable of the vineyard (cf Mt 21:33-46), the parable of the wedding banquet, (cf Mt. 22:1). There is also the teaching on paying taxes (cf Mt 22:15) and the rebuke of the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (cf Mt. 22:23). There is also the fearful prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem if the inhabitants do not come to faith in him. He warns that not one stone will be left on another (cf Mt 24). Continue to pray with Jesus and listen carefully to his final teachings just before his passion.

Wednesday of Holy Week. Traditionally this day was called “Spy Wednesday” for it was on this Wednesday before the crucifixion that Judas conspired to hand Jesus over. For this he was paid thirty pieces of silver (cf Mt. 26:14). Jesus likely spent the day In Bethany. In the evening Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus with costly perfumed oil. Judas objects but Jesus rebukes him and says Mary has anointed him for his burial! (cf Mt 26:6). The wicked are besetting Jesus and plotting against him. Are you praying?

HOLY THURSDAY, marks the beginning of the sacred Triduum, or “three days.” Earlier this day Jesus had given instructions to the disciples on how to prepare for this most holy meal, which will be his last supper. Through the day they make these preparations (cf Mt 26:17). In the Mass of the Lord’s Supper conducted at our parishes, we remember and make present that Last Supper which Jesus shared with his disciples. We are in the upper room with Jesus and the Apostles and do what they did. Through the ritual of washing the feet (Jn 13:1) of 12 parishioners, we unite in service to one another. Through our celebration of this first Mass and Holy Eucharist (Mt 26:26), we unite ourselves to Jesus and receive his Body and Blood as if for the first time. At this Eucharist, we especially thank God for his gift of the ministerial priesthood. After the Last Supper (First Mass) the apostles and Jesus made a short journey across the Kidron Valley to the Garden where he asks them to pray and he experiences his agony (cf Mt 26:30). We too will process in Church with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to a garden (the altar of repose) which has been prepared. The liturgy ends in silence. It is an ancient custom to spend an hour before the reposed Blessed Sacrament tonight. We are with Jesus in the Garden and pray as he goes through his agony. Most of our parish churches remain open until close to midnight. It was near Midnight that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to the house of the High Priest (cf Mt. 26:47).

GOOD FRIDAY, All through the night Jesus has been locked in the dungeon of the high priest’s house. Early this morning he was bought before a Pilate who transferred his case to Herod. Herod sent him back to Pilate who, sometime in the mid-morning, bowed to the pressure of the Temple leadership and the crowds, and condemned Jesus to a horrible death by crucifixion. In the late morning Jesus was taken by the soldiers through the city and up the hillside of Golgotha. By noon he is nailed to the cross where he hangs in agony for some three hours. He dies around three in the afternoon. He is taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb hastily before sundown. Today is a day of prayer, fasting and abstinence. Whenever possible, Christians are urged to keep today free of work, of social engagements, of entertainment, and to devote themselves to communal prayer and worship. At noon many parishes gather for stations of the cross for recollections of the seven last words of Jesus. Many parishes also offer staions of the cross at 3pm the hour of Jesus death. In the evening, we gather quietly in our parish Churches to enter into time of prayer as we reflect on Jesus death on the cross. We also pray for the needs of the world. To acknowledge the power of the cross in our lives today, we one by one come forward to venerate the cross with a kiss. Our hunger from this day of fasting is satisfied with Holy Communion distributed at the end of this liturgy.Consider too how the apostles might have gathered that night together in fear and prayer reflecting on all that happened.

HOLY SATURDAY – The body of Jesus is in the tomb but His soul is among the dead to announce the kingdom. The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear it will Live (John 5:25). Consider what it must have been like for the dead in Sheol to awaken to the voice of Jesus! Meanwhile The Disciples, heartbroken at the death of Jesus, observed the Jewish Sabbath in sorrow. They had forgotten the promise of Jesus that He would rise. We cannot forget His promise. We cannot forget. Tonight in our parishes after sundown we gather for the Great Easter Vigil where we will experience Jesus rising from the dead. We gather in darkness and light the Easter fire which reminds us that Jesus is light in the darkness. He is the light of the world. We enter into the church and attentively listen to Bible stories describing God’s saving work of the past. Suddenly, the church lights are lit and the Gloria is sung as we celebrate the moment of Christ’s resurrection. He Lives! In the joy of the resurrection we then celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist for our Catechumens and Candidates who have prepared for many weeks for this night. As a Church we sing Alleluia for the first time in forty days. Do everything you can to be present on this evening and invite friends and family to join. Our Vigil ushers in an Easter joy that never ends!

Holy Thursday – Late Evening at the Mount of Olives

 If you have never been to the Holy Land and to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane here is a video that gives you an idea of what it looks like today including the Church built over the traditional site of the Agony in the Garden. Pray with Jesus this evening as he suffers a lonely agony in the garden.

Holy Thursday

TODAY IS HOLY THURSDAY, which marks the beginning of the sacred Triduum, or “three days.” Earlier today Jesus had given instructions to the disciples on how to prepare for this most holy meal, which will be his last supper. Through the day they make these preparations (cf Mt 26:17). This evening Jesus celebrates the first Mass and Last Supper with his apostles. In the Mass of the Lord’s Supper conducted at our parishes, we remember and make present that Last Supper. We are in the upper room with Jesus and the Apostles and do what they did. Through the ritual of washing the feet (Jn 13:1) of 12 parishioners, we unite in service to one another. Through our celebration of this first Mass and Holy Eucharist (Mt 26:26), we unite ourselves to Jesus and receive his Body and Blood as if for the first time. At this Eucharist, we especially thank God for his gift of the ministerial priesthood. After the Last Supper (First Mass) the apostles and Jesus made a short journey across the Kidron Valley to the Garden where he asks them to pray and he experiences his agony (cf Mt 26:30). We too will process in Church with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to a garden (the altar of repose) which has been prepared. The liturgy ends in silence. It is an ancient custom to spend an hour before the reposed Blessed Sacrament tonight. We are with Jesus in the Garden and pray as he goes through his agony. Most of our parish churches remain open until close to midnight. It was near Midnight that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to the house of the High Priest (cf Mt. 26:47).

Diversity on Display – Maronite Passion Hymn

Among the Eastern Catholic Churches is the Maronite Catholic Church. It is rooted in Lebanon but its members are now all over the world. This Church is in union with Rome and the Holy Father but has its own Maronite Liturgy conducted in both the vernacular and Aramaic, the Language of Jesus himself. You can read more about the Maronite Church HERE and  HERE and of its liturgy HERE.

The Following Video features the hauntingly beauty Passion hymn from the Maronite Liturgy Wa Habibi. Here is the text and translation:

Arabic Lyrics:
وا حبيبي وا حبيبي أي حال أنت فيه
من رآك فشجاك أنت أنت المفتدي
يا حبيبي أي ذنب حمل العدل بنيه
فأزادوك جراحاً ليس فيها من شفاء
حين في البستان ليلاً سجد الفادي الإلة
كانت الدنيا تصلي للذي أغنى الصلاة
شجر الزيتون يبكي و تناديه الشفاء
يا حبيبي كيف تمضي أترى ضاع الوفاء

English Translation:
My Love, My Love
What has befallen you?
Who saw you and grieved for you,
You who are righteous?
My Love, what is the sin of our times and our children?
These wounds have no cure.

Of the last line “These wounds have no cure” it is well to reflect that even in his resurrected and glorified body the wounds of Jesus still appear. This is because they are wounds of love and his love for us will never pass away or ever be “healed.”

Pray along with this video, it captures well the somber and prayerful mood of Holy Week.

Here in the Archdiocese of Washington the Maronite Rite is celebrated at Our Lady of Lebanon 7142 Alaska Rd. NW 202-829-5554