Spatium laetissimum

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Monday of Pascha

I first preached this homily in 1996. It may yet be useful to those of you who are beginning to discover the four steps of that mystic dance to the altar that we call lectio divina.

Haec Dies

Great and glorious Pascha is eight days and it is one day. Every day this week, we shall repeat the chant of Haec dies: "This is the day (always today, not yesterday) the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad therein" (Ps 117:24). We have entered into the Church's spatium laetissimum, into the holy Pentecost, the fifty-day pledge and foretaste of her eternal gladness in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Life of Christ and Life of His Church

Have you noticed that we begin today the reading of the Acts of the Apostles? Have you asked yourself why? It is because the life the risen Jesus and the life of His Bride, the Church, are one and the same life: a doxological life facing the Father in the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles recount the life of the Church; the life of the Church is the life of the risen Jesus extended to his members in the sacramenta paschalia, the sacraments of initiation.

The life of the risen Jesus flows through His members. He is the living vine, we, nourished by the sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood, are the fruit-bearing branches. We read the Acts of the Apostles beginning today to proclaim it for all to hear: the life of the Church is the life of the risen Christ, a life hidden in God. "Your life is His with Christ in God," says St. Paul. "When Christ who is our life appears, then you--Bride of Christ, Body of Christ--will appear with him in glory" (Col 3:4).

Holy Preaching and Lectio Divina

One of the first manifestations of Christ living in the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit is the charism of holy preaching. Where the Word is proclaimed, the risen Christ is really and truly present. In today's First Reading, Saint Peter begins to use one of Our Lord's most precious Paschal gifts to the Church: the intelligence of sacred Scripture. Appearing to the apostles, after His Resurrection, the Lord Jesus said to them: "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Which prophets? Those whom we read at the great Paschal Vigil, but above all, the holy prophet David, the psalmist of Christ.) And beginning with Moses (just as we did at the Vigil with our readings from Genesis and Exodus) and all the prophets (just as we did at the Vigil with Isaiah, Baruch and Ezekiel), He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Lk 24:25-27). This is the principle of lectio divina: all of scripture concerns Christ, allows us to hear His voice, to contemplate His face, to penetrate the secrets of His heart.

And Our Lord said to His apostles: "These are My words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled. Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures" (Lk 24:44-45). This is the gift of the risen Jesus to the apostles; in today's First Reading we see and hear Saint Peter putting the gift to use.

Psalm 15

Peter, who in the Passion account on Good Friday trembled in the presence of a servant girl, trembles now with the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. And in the light of the Holy Spirit, he unveils to his hearers the mystery of Christ in David's Psalm 15. "For David says concerning him (concerning Jesus Christ), 'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken (the relationship of the Lord Jesus and the Eternal Father); therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced (the Heart of Jesus: gladness in the presence of the Father!); moreover my flesh will dwell in hope (the flesh of God woven by the Holy Spirit in Mary's virgin womb, nourished at her breast, crucified and laid in the tomb). For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades (the descent into hell commemorated on Holy Saturday), nor let thy Holy One see corruption (Quoniam tu solus sanctus, we sang in the Gloria). Thou hast made known to me the ways of life (Resurrection!); thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence (with thy presence, Father!)." Peter opens his Psalter and discovers Christ! Here, Peter exercising the charism of holy preaching, gives his hearers a Pentecostal initiation into the practice of lectio divina.

Meditatio

But there is still more. There is another way of drawing near to Jesus. Lectio leads to meditatio. The holy women of the Gospel with their paschal dance in three movements teach us this. Meditatio is the movement from the text on the sacred page to the adorable person of Jesus. In lectio, Jesus comes up to us (in His Word) and greets us. The divine initiative always precedes the human response. Then the women, came up to Jesus. This is our meditatio: the movement towards the risen Jesus who, in His word, draws near to us first.

Oratio

Secondly, the holy women take hold of the feet of Our Lord. How do we take hold of the pierced feet of the Lord Jesus? By grasping them firmly in oratio. Oratio is clinging to the feet of Jesus. Where are His feet? In the sacred text. Those words that leap off the page and present them to your lips to be kissed represent the feet of Jesus. Hold them firmly, do not let them go.

Contemplatio

Thirdly, the holy women adore Him. This means that they are completely liquified by the love that pours out of the wounds in His feet. The heart liquified by love becomes pure adoration. This is contemplatio. This is what the holy women teach us, preaching to us by means of their Paschal dance in three movements.

The Hour Has Come

The steps of the mystic dance lead us to the altar. There, time gives place to eternity; there, the risen and ascended Christ glorifies the Father in us, having gathered us to Himself in the unity of the Holy Spirit. "Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee" (Jn 17:1). This is the life of the risen and ascended Christ--the glory of the Father--this is the life of the Church. Taste it in His Body given for you. Drink deeply of it from the precious chalice of his Blood.

1 Comments

This is one of the most touching scenes in the Bible!

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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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