Monday, April 18, 2011
Trajectory of Holy Week: Benedict XVI 2011
After Peter's confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi [“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16)] in the northernmost part of the Holy Land, Jesus set out as a pilgrim towards Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. He was journeying towards the Temple in the Holy City, towards that place which for Israel ensured in a particular way God's closeness to his people. He was making his way towards the common feast of Passover, the memorial of Israel's liberation from Egypt and the sign of its hope of definitive liberation. He knew that what awaited him was a new Passover and that he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. He knew that in the mysterious gifts of bread and wine he would give himself for ever to his own, and that he would open to them the door to a new path of liberation, to fellowship with the living God. He was making his way to the heights of the Cross, to the moment of self-giving love. The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being. Was there a Lamb at the Last Supper? Ans: Only Christ Himself! Basilica of St John LateranHoly Thursday, April 5, 2007 There is an apparent discrepancy in the Evangelists’ accounts, between John’s Gospel on the one hand, and what on the other Mathew, Mark and Luke tell us. According to John, Jesus died on the Cross at the very moment when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple. The death of Jesus and the sacrifice of the lambs coincided. However, this means that he must have died the day before Easter and could not, therefore, have celebrated the Passover meal in person - this, at any rate, is how it appears. According to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper of Jesus was instead a Passover meal into whose traditional form he integrated the innovation of the gift of his Body and Blood. This contradiction seemed unsolvable until a few years ago. The majority of exegetes were of the opinion that John was reluctant to tell us the true historical date of Jesus’ death, but rather chose a symbolic date to highlight the deeper truth: Jesus is the new, true Lamb who poured out his Blood for us all. In the meantime, the discovery of the [Dead Sea] Scrolls at Qumran has led us to a possible and convincing solution which, although it is not yet accepted by everyone, is a highly plausible hypothesis. We can now say that John’s account is historically precise. Jesus truly shed his blood on the eve of Easter at the time of the immolation of the lambs.In all likelihood, however, he celebrated the Passover with his disciples in accordance with the Qumran calendar, hence, at least one day earlier; he celebrated it without a lamb, like the Qumran community which did not recognize Herod’s temple and was waiting for the new temple. Consequently, Jesus celebrated the Passover without a lamb - no, not without a lamb: instead of the lamb he gave himself, his Body and his Blood. Thus, he anticipated his death in a manner consistent with his words: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (Jn 10: 18). At the time when he offered his Body and his Blood to the disciples, he was truly fulfilling this affirmation. He himself offered his own life. Only in this way did the ancient Passover acquire its true meaning. In his Eucharistic catecheses, St John Chrysostom once wrote: Moses, what are you saying? Does the blood of a lamb purify men and women? Does it save them from death? How can the blood of an animal purify people, save people or have power over death? In fact, Chrysostom continues, the immolation of the lamb could be a merely symbolic act, hence, the expression of expectation and hope in One who could accomplish what the sacrifice of an animal was incapable of accomplishing. The Lamb and Temple Jesus celebrated the Passover without a lamb and without a temple; yet, not without a lamb and not without a temple. He himself was the awaited Lamb, the true Lamb, just as John the Baptist had foretold at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1: 29). And he himself was the true Temple, the living Temple where God dwells and where we can encounter God and worship him. His Blood, the love of the One who is both Son of God and true man, one of us, is the Blood that can save. His love, that love in which he gave himself freely for us, is what saves us. ……" Consider: Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth” II p. 114: “One thing emerges clearly from the entire tradition: essentially, this farewell meal was not the old Passover but the new one, which Jesus accomplished in this context. Even though the meal that Jesus shared with the Twelve was not a Passover meal according to the ritual prescriptions of Judaism, nevertheless, in retrospect, the inner connection of the whole event with Jesus’ death and Resurrection stood out clearly. It was Jesus’ Passover. And in this sense he both did and did not celebrate the Passover: the old rituals could not be carried out – when their time came, Jesus had already died. But he had given himself, and thus he had truly celebrated the Passover with them. The old was not abolished; it was simply brought to its full meaning.” [“For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5, 7)].  “Israel’s Passover was and is a family celebration. It was celebrated in the home, not in the Temple. In the history of the foundation of the People of Israel, in Exodus (12, 1-14), it is the home which is the locus of salvation and refuge in that night of darkness in which the Angel of Death walked abroad. For Egypt, in contrast, that night spelled the power of death, of destruction, of chaos, things that continually rise up from the deep places of the world and of man, threatening to wreck the good creation and reduce the world to an uninhabitable wilderness. In this situation it is the home, the family, which provides protection; in other words, the world always needs to be defended against chaos, creation always needs shielding and recreation. In the calendar of the nomads from whom Israel adopted the Passover festival, Passover was New Year’s Day, i.e., the day on which the creation was refounded, when it had to be defended once again against the inroads of the void. The home, the family, is life’s protective rampart, the place of security, of ‘shalom,’ of that peace and togetherness which lives and lets live, which holds the world together” J. Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius (1986) 103.