Ecce ascendimus Ierosolymam

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Second Wednesday of Lent

Jeremiah 18: 18-20
Psalm 30: 4-5, 13, 14-15
Matthew 20: 17-28

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The Sorrowful Passion of the Lord

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:17). The whole drama of the Paschal Triduum appears today before our eyes and sounds in our ears. “The Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day” (Mt 20:18). The liturgy invites us to “go up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:17), to follow Our Lord along the via dolorosa, the way of sorrows, the way of the Cross.

Prayer With Loud Cries and Tears

In the First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah, tracked and persecuted, is an image of the suffering Christ. The intentions of the prophet’s enemies are clear: “Come, let us smite him with the tongue, and let us heed not any of his words” (Jer 18:18). Jeremiah raises his voice in prayer: “Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to my plea. . . . Remember how I stood before thee to speak good for them, to turn away thy wrath from them” (Jer 18:20). In the prayer of Jeremiah we hear the voice of Christ in his Passion. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear” (Heb 5:7).

Recordare, Virgo Mater Dei

In the liturgy of the Church — and, therefore, under the influence of the Holy Spirit — Jeremiah’s prayer became the Offertory Antiphon of the Mass of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Friday of Passion Week, and again on September 15th. The Church takes the prophet’s plea and addresses it to the Mother of Sorrows: Recordare, Virgo Mater Dei . . . . “Do not forget us, Virgin Mother of God; speak good things for us there where thou standest in the presence of the Lord, to avert his anger from us” (cf. Jer 18:20).

Over the words, a nobis, “from us,” the Gregorian melody soars higher and higher into the uppermost notes of the first mode and then, peacefully, in a sublime expression of confidence, descends until it comes to rest in silence. The chant melody is a kind of musical icon of the supplication of the Church, and of her reliance on the intercession of the Mother of God.

The Man of Sorrows

One sees in the liturgical use of this text just how the Holy Spirit authorizes us to search out the Scriptures and to find in them, like the treasure hidden in the field, the mystery of the prayer of Christ: a prayer inseparable from that of his Holy Mother, a prayer continued through the ages in the supplications of his Bride, the Church. The original prayer belongs to Jeremiah: innocent and persecuted, he is the figure and the voice of Christ, the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).

The New Eve

The prayer of Christ, the New Adam, is inseparable from that of his Mother, the New Eve. She enters heart and soul into his priesthood; standing on Calvary, she receives into herself every word of his uttered from the Cross. She enters into his priestly offering and, in so doing, models our own participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Into Thy Hands

The Responsorial Psalm has to be understood along the same lines. Psalm 30 is attributed to the prophet David. Our Lord prays it from the Cross: “Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). His Mother, standing nearby, heard him pray that psalm verse, the very one that the Jewish child learns to pray before going to sleep at night: “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit” (Ps 30:5). The prayer of the Son finds its perfect echo in the sorrowful heart of the Mother: “Father, into thy hands, I commend his spirit, the spirit of my child, the spirit of my Jesus.” The Church, receiving, like the Virgin Mary, the same prayer of Christ, continues it night after night in the office of Compline: “Into thy hands, O Lord I commend my spirit” (Ps 30:5).

The Virgin Mother at the Cross and at the Altar

To approach the altar is to approach the Cross. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18). The chalice of the Blood of Christ is presented to us. “Enter into the mystery of my sufferings. Drink of my Blood and be filled with the fire of my prayer to the Father.” The Mother of God, sorrowful and compassionate, is with us to teach us just what that means. Recordare, Virgo Mater. . . . “Remember, O Virgin Mother of God; speak good things for us there where thou standest in the presence of the Lord, to avert his anger from us” (cf. Jer 18:20).

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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