EASTER TRIDUUM
HOLY THURSDAY
GOOD FRIDAY
HOLY SATURDAY
April 20-22, 2000
volume 11, no. 79

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Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW         INTRODUCTION

    Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat Ludwa retraces the origin of the "Lamb of God" through Sacred Scripture and how Jesus would be offered up as the Sacrificial Lamb for all time. We celebrate all kinds of occasions of victories throughout history but the greatest victory is the Triumph of the Cross in which the Savior offered Himself as an immolated victim for the salvation of all. Through this victory on Calvary, completed with His Resurrection from the dead on Easter morning, man can forever celebrate "VE Day" which is "Victory Eternal." That is the gist of his column today, "VE Day!"

    For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives   If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at ludwa@core.com


"VE Day!"

        VE Day (Victory in Europe) was a day of great rejoicing. The entire world worked together to end an regime that was, essentially, evil incarnate and in command of an entire nation. But we can't forget that before there was a VE Day, there was the sacrifice of D-Day at Normandy, there was the sacrifice at Stalingrad, and the sacrifice at Bastogne (to name only a few).

        VJ Day (Victory over Japan) was also a day of great rejoicing, and like VE Day, it can't be celebrated without first recalling the sacrifices of Guadalcanal, Buna, Iwo Jima, and many others.

        This Sunday, we celebrate the Holiest Day of the year, Easter. The day we commemorate with great rejoicing, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the tomb. "Dying, He destroyed our death, rising, He restored our life." Alleluia!!!!

        But before that great and glorious day, there was another. The mode God chose to save us was foretold in the Old Testament. "After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here am I.' He said, 'Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you'" (Genesis 22: 1-2).

        Abraham was told to offer his only son as a sin offering to God. Abraham was not only tested by God, He also gave us a hint that He was going to offer His only begotten Son as a sin offering, to redeem the world. Later we read, "The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 'This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household; and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening. Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts'" (Exodus 12: 1-9).

        An unblemished lamb, male. Christ was going to be that "Lamb of God", born without blemish, with no blemish in Him. The blood that would save them was placed on the lintel (the cross beam over the top of the door) and the two doorposts, the two supporting beams. If one runs a line down from the lintel, and across to the two door posts, one gets a cross. One may even see a precursor of the Eucharist, eating the Lamb whole and entire. "And the people came to Moses, and said, 'We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us.' So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.' So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live" (Numbers 7: 7-9).

        So God gave us many clues as to what was going to occur, as well as clear prophecy. "a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet-- I can count all my bones-- they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots." (Psalm 22: 16-18).

        "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

        "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.

        "Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief; when He makes Himself an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring, He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand; He shall see the fruit of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, My servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He poured out His soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53: 4-12)

        Even Christ gave His Apostles and disciples a clue as to what was to occur. "No one has ascended into Heaven but He Who descended from Heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life" (John 3: 13-15).

        "So Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My Own authority but speak thus as the Father taught Me. And He Who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him'" (John 8: 28-29).

        "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:31-32).

        So, we had many clues as to what was going to happen. St. Francis of Assisi was once asked why he was crying. He answered that he was crying recalling the passion of Christ and that he would not be ashamed to go throughout the world weeping over the passion and death of Christ. Let's recall how He did this, the why is was far more than many can comprehend.

        We have to recall that Christ felt everything we did, and do. Hunger, pain, joy, laughter, sorrow. Whatever was going to happen, He'd feel it. His Divinity wouldn't safeguard Him from the pain He was about to suffer. We'll touch on this later.

        Tired, as seen by the fact that the Apostles had a difficult time staying awake, Jesus is betrayed. His 'capture' would not be gentle. There wouldn't be any reading of His 'rights', no concern about 'police brutality'. In fact, such brutality would be common. As a prisoner, He would be roughly handled, while being brought, tired and in pain, to the Sanhedrin. "Now the chief priests and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus that they might put Him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, 'This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.' ' And the high priest stood up and said, "Have You no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against You?' But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to Him, 'I adjure You by the living God, tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.' Jesus said to him, 'You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of Heaven.' Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, 'He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard His blasphemy. What is your judgment?' They answered, 'He deserves death.' Then they spat in His face, and struck Him; and some slapped Him, saying, 'Prophesy to us, You Christ! Who is it that struck You?'" (Matthew 26: 59-68).

        Condemned by the High Priest, the Temple Guards could have their sport with Him. Now, He's tired and in even greater pain from being beaten as He's brought before Pilate. Pilate, hoping to get rid of this 'problem' sends Him to Herod, where He is again mocked and abused. His fatigue is growing, His pain is increasing. Herod, tired of his 'sport' sends Him back to Pilate. Pilate, hoped just making an example of Jesus would be enough. "Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and arrayed Him in a purple robe; they came up to Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and struck Him with their hands. Pilate went out again, and said to them, 'See, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in Him.' So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, 'Behold the man!'" (John 19:1-5).

        Now, we have to understand that to be scourged generally was a death sentence in itself. The Romans used a multi-stranded whip with bits of bone or metal attached to the ends to give it weight. This essentially ripped the flesh from the bone. The pain, shock, and loss of blood was often enough to bring about death. Christ's back would have been a bloody mass of torn flesh. But it didn't end there. The Roman Legionnaires would have used this opportunity to vent some of their frustration as well. The crown of thorns (the thorns were at least an inch long) was to mock what they thought was His claim. Punching Him only added to the pain, and vented their frustration. It's easy to see how Pilate responded "Ecce Homo" - "Behold the Man," because He would bear little semblance to a man. "The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint" (Isaiah 50:5-7).

        But the final act was about to begin. Exhausted from lack of sleep, kept awake from being moved, kept standing and beaten, Christ embraces His cross. The cross, crucifixion, was the Roman's worst form of execution. The pain was so excruciating that Roman historians wrote how many victims had to have their tongues removed to silence their screams and blasphemies.

        Imagine how you and I would react if we had just undergone what Christ had, and THEN take a heavy cross on your pain-racked shoulders and have to carry it out of the city, up a hill, to the place of your death.

        So afraid were they that He would die before getting to the hill, they got Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross part of the way. "And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered Him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when He tasted it, He would not drink it" (Matthew 27:33-34). The reason He would not drink is because the drink was designed to deaden some of the pain to make it easier to affix them to the cross. He felt all that was happening to Him.

        God asked Abraham to offer his son for the forgiveness of sins, but stopped him before he did as he was asked. But God did not stop the sacrifice of His beloved, only begotten Son, a male without blemish, THE Lamb of God. "No one has ascended into Heaven but He Who descended from Heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life" (John 3: 13-15).

        From Abraham, to Moses. From David and Isaiah, we were told what was going to occur. The Son of God was going to give His blood so we may 'Passover' from death to life, He was going to be 'lifted' up above the earth, so that all who gaze upon Him and believe may be saved. Though no sin or offense was in Him, He was going to be considered as a worm, not a man, He was going to be despised and counted among evil doers.

        But from this sacrifice, we get the glory of Easter. Let's not forget that. It isn't just the cross, an instrument of Roman execution, which saved us, but Christ on that cross that made it a sign of hope and salvation. His tomb could not be empty on Easter unless He first died on Good Friday.

        "O sons and daughters let us sing! The King of Heaven, the glorious King, O'er death and hell rose triumphing. Alleluia! ... On this most holy day of days, To God your hearts and voices raise, in laud and jubilee and praise. Alleluia!"
        (from the hymn "O Fili et Filiae")

    Pax Christi and Happy Easter, Pat

          

April 20-22, 2000
volume 11, no. 79
VIEW FROM THE PEW

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