Wednesday, February 13, 2013

O Blessed, O Hallowed Ash Wednesday!


"After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I thirst." There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit." (John 19:28-30)

Yesterday there were some videos on YouTube showing the Monastery Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican Gardens, which is being renovated as the retirement residence of Pope Benedict XVI. For some reason, the impression I got wasn't exactly cheery (something between a prison and a mausoleum kept coming to mind). Hopefully it has a nice garden and view for walking.

Having said that, I hope you can understand me when I say that I am thankful for Ash Wednesday and its sobriety, while coping with the loss of two loved ones these days: my mother, who passed away peacefully at age 87 on 25 January, and now the Holy Father. Mother we laid in the tomb and well, unless they spruce the place up a bit, there is a certain dying in the Pope's renunciation of office, symbolized for me in his soon to be home in the Vatican Gardens, which, as I say, to my mind may compare favorably with a hermitage for St. Anthony the Abbot but has a sepulchral air about it from what is displayed in the videos.

They tell me the poor Cardinal of Krakow has received a lot of flack at home in Poland for having repeated the famous line of the ailing Blessed Pope John Paul II on the question of a pope resigning, saying you can't step down from the Cross. That is unfortunate, because I am sure he intended no criticism of Pope Benedict XVI. Both in the blogosphere and elsewhere many are expressing both pondered and visceral reactions to the Holy Father's decision both pro and con. While we must firmly believe that only the Lord of Life, as is evident from the verses I quote from the Passion in the Gospel of St. John, only the Son of God lays down His life to take it up again, even so, I think the Lord grants a certain leave-way to His beloved and some possibility for laying down our lives as well.

People die in accidents, people are executed or assassinated, people die in fear; this is true. God's beloved sometimes are granted the grace of that privileged moment to show charity through a word or a squeeze of the hand which helps a child or a spouse, perhaps a dear friend to let go of the one who is dying, confident that the one departing this life is going home to God. We do not take our lives in our own hands, but I firmly believe we pass from this life as something more than roadkill.

From that day on which we first come forth into the light of day, we are all dying. Only Divine Providence knows the day and the hour when that process will be complete. Every now and again, I receive personal prayer requests for a miracle from God to spare the life of a child or a beloved young spouse. I have no doubt that God always hears those requests and in His great mercy can grant the miracle of recovery or can allow the one He is calling home to heaven to gently take leave and reassure those who may be torn apart by the very thought. He is the same God, Who at our petition might give that extra time to the unrepentant sinner to see the error of his or her ways and seek God.
St. Joseph, Patron of a happy death, pray for us!

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return! 

Thank God for the admonition of Ash Wednesday! Would that we would all heed and change our way of living to conform with His Holy Will! Would that we all amidst tears might be able to let our loved ones go home to God when the time comes! Would that Lent could help us all better to live with our hearts set on the world to come!

The serenity and sovereignty of the Pope's renunciation (at least so I hope and pray) will be a squeeze of the hand, if you will, for Christ's Holy Church and motivation toward a new and even more profound hope in the Kingship of the One Who reigns from the Tree of the Cross. So be it!

Happy Lent!
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI


1 comment:

  1. Your Excellency,

    Be assured of our humble but warmest prayers for the soul of your Mother. We're sure Saint Joseph took her by the hand and brought her to Jesus and Mary for an eternity of worship and joy.

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