lundi, février 09, 2009

Sermon for Septuagesima Sunday

It is now a new liturgical cycle that begins with Septuagesima Sunday. The cycle of the Nativity is now over. The mystery of the Incarnation has kept our attention and we have focused on the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a time of a serene joy that found its peak during Midnight Mass when the angel of God revealed the good news of the Nativity of the Savior: I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people.
Today, it seems that this joy has vanished. The very first words of today’s mass are even gloomy: The terrors of death surged round about me. The dominant liturgical color is now purple and it will be until Easter. The singing of the Alleluia, and the word ‘alleluia’ itself are banished even on feast days. It is an acclamation of joy and as such, it is not suitable in a time of austerity and penance. We have to wait until the night of Easter to hear it again.
Easter is precisely the center and the peak of this liturgical cycle. The mysteries of the Passion and of the Resurrection of Our Lord constitute the axis around which the entire liturgical year unfolds. We have meditated on the fact of the Incarnation during the first cycle. Now, let us consider its reasons and its consequences.
The liturgy reminded us this morning, during the Office of Matins, of the Creation. There is a deep similitude between the creation and the Incarnation, expressed by the very first words of the Sacred Scripture: In principio. In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram – In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. In principio erat Verbum – In the beginning was the Word. And Saint John clearly affirms that all things were made by Him, and that He was made flesh. Creation - Incarnation. In the work of the creation and the work of the Incarnation, God communicates Himself to the creatures. But the second communication happens to be a work of restoration that would proceed in a very dramatic way on the Cross.
The first man, Adam, fell. God would raise him again, but this new rise would be completed by a kind of annihilation like if it were a return to nothing. Creating is making things out nothing. The Redemption is a new creation and then it supposes a certain ‘nothing’. This is the meaning of the holocaust: a sacrifice whose victim is totally consumed. The Word would be this victim that offers Himself in expiation. Because He was annihilated – He emptied Himself, as Saint Paul says – He could rise again from a certain nothingness which is a new creation, more beautiful than the first one, as it is so well expressed in the beautiful prayer that the priest says when he prepares the chalice during offertory: O God, who established the nature of man in wondrous dignity, and still more admirably restored it.
The wages of sin is death. Adam felt the stranglehold of death in his flesh, as every man does now: The terrors of death surged round about me. The new Adam wanted to know it, but it changed it into a gift that brings us back life everlasting. Now, if we want to receive this gift, we have to follow Christ through His death and His burial, so that we can live again with Him. This is all the sense of our Baptism. We still have to live in accordance with our Baptism that has made us like Christ. This is why Saint Paul tells us in today’s epistle: I so fight as not beating the air, but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection. Bringing our bodies into subjection is our Lenten program. The season of Septuagesima already prepares our minds and spirits for this difficult but necessary task. It is the only way given to us for our restoration.
May Our Lady help us to be crucified with her Son, so that we can live with Him forever

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