Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sunday 'In Albis'


 My Friends,

1 John 5, 4 -10; John 20, 19 -31.
 My Lord and my God!

Eight days ago we gathered to celebrate the feast of Easter, the greatest feast of the Christian year. Throughout the week, the Church has presented us in the Gospel reading at daily Mass the different post-Resurrection apparitions of Christ. We are there for six of these apparitions. On Monday we were with the disciples from Emmaus who finally recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread after not having recognized him while he joined them and talked with them on their journey. On Tuesday, the apostles and the disciples “touched” Jesus and ate with Him on the first Easter evening. Jesus appeared to us on Wednesday on the shores of the Lake of Genesareth when He invited the seven apostles to a meal of fish and bread. On Thursday, we were with Mary Magdalene “who with love and longing sought and found her Saviour. And then, on Friday, we were in the crowd of disciples and we saw the Risen Christ on the mountain in His last apparition. Christ tells us, “I am with you all days...” Today, we are at the sixth apparition, with the Apostles, and more particularly, with Thomas. Today, we are called to touch the Risen Christ and, with Thomas, to also say, My Lord and my God!

Liturgically, this Sunday is known as Dominica in albis, that is, the Sunday in white. This name comes from the early Church when those who had been baptized at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, wore all through the Octave
of Easter the white garment with which they had been robed at their Baptism; going to Mass on each of the eight days in procession, wearing the white garment. Their visibility throughout the Octave “was a living sermon reminding all that as Christians they had risen with Christ to a new life on Easter. It was on the Saturday after Easter, that is, yesterday, that they took off their white garments and put them in the church’s wardrobe. On the following day, the First Sunday after Easter today they attended Mass for the first time in their ordinary clothes, a sign of being full members of the Church.

This tradition is quite important to our understanding the message of Easter for us today. From the Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday at which the Baptisms happen to the daily Masses of the Octave of Easter, the liturgical celebrations of the Easter season focus our faith on the core elements of our belief: the Resurrection of Christ and our Baptism into that Mystery. These two elements of our faith as Christians are inextricably bond together. A commentator, in fact, has written that “the second complements the first, while the first is the symbol and cause of the second.” We can see Baptism, our Baptism, as the Resurrection of Jesus in our soul. Indeed, Baptism marks us as followers of Christ, as Christians, as believers in His Resurrection, as sharers in His Resurrection. This Baptism forms in us, in an ongoing way, the desire to proclaim the Risen Christ as “My Lord and my God!”As Jesus calls Thomas to touch Him, to touch His wounds, so too Jesus calls each one of us to touch him and to confess Him as “My Lord and my God!”

The Church’s focus on the apparitions of the Risen Christ during this Octave are meant to cultivate in us a deeper sense of the Resurrection and of the Risen Christ’s continuing presence in and among us; so close, in fact, that we can touch Him. This we can do in our private prayer, in our meditation and contemplation. This we can do in our communal prayer. This we can do in our daily encounters with the people with whom we live and work.But, this we do especially in the Mass. For it is in the Mass, in our reception of the Body of Christ, that we can most intimately touch the Risen Christ. The infant faith we professed at our Baptism needs to be nurtured in the encounter with the Risen Christ at every Mass. It is in receiving the Body of Christ at Communion that we touch His wounds. In so doing, we bring our own wounds to Him, attach them to Him and He in return attaches Himself to us, taking our wounds into the wounds of His resurrected body. The faith which we  receive at Baptism as infants grows through our bringing our woundedness to the Risen Christ as He becomes present at Mass. Here, as the bread and wine are brought to the altar, we bring also the stuff which makes up our lives, and in particular that which is painful to bear, that which may make it difficult to believe. Here, as the Risen Christ continues His apparitions, He calls us to touch and see, and to believe in the power of His resurrected presence in our lives.On this day, let us reaffirm our faith in the abiding presence of the Risen Christ in His Church, and together, let us confess, “My Lord and my God!”

 

Father Ed Bakker 


 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Easter Day - 4 April 2021


 My Friends,

Reading : Saint John 20 v 1

 Christ is Risen. Alleluia, Alleluia! The Lord is Risen indeed.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

The Church’s ancient proclamation captures something of the joy and the excitement of this day. But, make no mistake, the Resurrection is not some sort of clap-happy event, a happy ending to an otherwise sad and bitter tale. No. The joy and the excitement of Easter are born out of the Passion and Death of Christ. “Now from the grave wake poetry again”, as Dante puts it, signaling that sense of new birth and the re-orientation of our souls to God that follows upon the contemplation of death. No Passion. No Resurrection. The intensity of the Passion gives rise to the joyfulness of the Resurrection, to the music of human redemption played out in human lives.

 

The Resurrection is a bodily event. But it gives rise to a new understanding of everything. There is, we might say, a resurrection of the understanding. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is, as I am fond of saying, radical new life. Radical is the right word, actually. It refers to the root of things, the radix. The Resurrection goes to the root of all life itself. That root is the reciprocal love of the Son for the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit.

 

The God who creates ex nihilo - out of nothing - recreates out of the greater nothingness of sin and death. The Cross makes visible that greater nothingness. The full force of sin and evil are revealed in the crucified Christ. The greater nothingness is the vanity of our wills as against everything that is good - against one another in the human community, against the good order of creation, and, ultimately, against God himself. But the Cross also makes visible the far greater love of God both for us and in itself.

 

If the message of Good Friday is that God is dead, then the message of Easter is that death is conquered, death is dead. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more;/death hath no more dominion over him”. Christ is risen from the dead never to die again. The meaning of death itself is changed. The tomb is not only empty; it has become the womb of new life. The unending life of the Resurrection is accomplished in and through the darkness and the silence of death. But now, Christ is Risen! There is music and light, poetry and life.

 

The Cross is the visible sign. The Resurrection is its invisible reality. We see Christ crucified. We look on him whom we have pierced. We behold him dead. But his rising to life again - that is something hid from our eyes. Like creation itself, we know it only by its effects. We see only after the fact, as it were. We know it by Word - by the understanding of Faith and not by sense experience.

 

We proclaim the Resurrection only by way of the Word of witnesses in the witness of the Scriptures. There is the silent witness of the empty tomb. There is the salutation of the angels. There is the message of Mary Magdalene and, above all else, there is the witness of the Risen Christ. His Resurrection is something which he wants us to know. He is the Word made flesh now risen from the dead. “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have”. The bodily reality of Christ is more, not less and so the Resurrection for us is more and not less.

 

The Christian doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body affirms, in the strongest possible way, the reality of our humanity, soul and body. We are soul and body. The body is not nothing, to be cast off and treated with contemptuous disdain. It is not everything, to be sure, rather our bodies are something and they belong to the distinctiveness of our individuality. They are part and parcel of who we are. We are not disembodied spirits. We are not soulless bodies. We are souls with bodies. What we shall be cannot be said with any degree of certainty - death is, after all, on the other side of individual experience - but it is enough to say that “we shall be like [Christ]”, indeed, more than enough. His Resurrection shows us the form of our resurrection. We shall be more and not less than ourselves. The body is not and cannot be left out of the equation of redemption. Salvation is accomplished in the body; “caro est cardo salutis” – “the flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Tertullian).

 

The greater point is that the God who made us for himself has restored us to himself. We have our end in God but only through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That ‘end’ is also our life here and now. We live the Resurrection in the body of Christ, the Church. We are identified with him in his Death and Resurrection. His Death and Resurrection become the pattern of our lives - the constant dying to ourselves and the continual living to God. This is our song.

 

For in that he died, he died unto sin once:/but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

 

Jesus the Son of God has given his life for us so that his life might live in us. That life is the life of the Resurrection. It is about “living unto God”. It is the life that has taken death into itself and overcome it. Death has been transformed into a way and not an end. Out of the grave comes life and music.

 

By the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, not only are we made adequate to the life of God, we also participate in the life of God now. The radical meaning of Christ’s Resurrection is that the life of God lives in us. We arise to walk in the ways which he has prepared for us to walk in, the ways of service and sacrifice, the ways of prayer and praise, the ways of joy and gladness. In a way, it is what our liturgy celebrates, namely, the music of God in us, God making his music through us, the music of the resurrection. “Now from the grave wake poetry again”.

 

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise

                                             Without delayes,

Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise

                                               With him mayst rise:

 

Nowhere, perhaps, is that made clearer for us than in the baptism of Lindsay Marie Sangster. Her baptism is a strong reminder of our identity in Christ through his death and resurrection. We are joined to him and we live from him in his love for the Father. It means rebirth, a being born anew into life with God. Lindsay’s baptism on Easter Day provides the occasion for the renewal of our baptismal vows, the renewal of our life with God.

 

The Resurrection does not extinguish the past confusions of our lives but redeems the past of sin and sorrow into the way of salvation. The things of sin and sorrow are an integral part of the music of our redemption. Again, it is what Jesus shows us in his risen body. The wounds of his crucifixion, the marks of our sinfulness, are not erased; they are transformed into the marks of glory, and even into the notes of joy. As Herbert puts it,

 

The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,

                                                 Who bore the same.

His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key

Is best to celebrate this most high day.

                                                                        (George Herbert, Easter)

 

The point is that Christ makes musical harmony even out of the discords of our hearts and lives. In him, poetry and music arise even out of the grave of human sin and death. The Resurrection would place our lives in the love of the Son for the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit; it is the life which shall not end, provided we live it, provided we let Christ’s music sing in us. His is all the music on this day.

 

 

Christ is Risen. Alleluia, Alleluia! The Lord is Risen indeed.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

Father Ed Bakker 


 

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ


My Friends, 

My Most Glorious and Suffering Lord, it is Your Hour.  It is the Hour by which You conquered sin and death.  It is the Hour for which You came into this world, taking on flesh so as to offer Your precious life for the salvation of the world.

May I be with You, dear Lord, in these moments of suffering and death.  May I, like Your Mother, John and Mary Magdalene, stand at the foot of the Cross, gazing upon the perfect Gift of Love.

My suffering Lord, may I see in Your Cross the most perfect act ever known in this world.  May I see Love in its most pure form.  May my eyes and soul look beyond the blood and pain and see Your Divine Heart, pouring forth Mercy upon me and upon the whole world.

Today I kneel in silent adoration of You, my God.  I sit quietly, beholding the great mystery of our faith.  I behold God, beaten, bruised, mocked, tortured and killed.  But in this act, I see all grace and Mercy Your grace and draw us to new life through Your death.  I love You, dear Lord.  I love You with all my heart.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Father Ed Bakker, 
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province, 
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne 
Launceston 
Tasmania
Australia



Sunday, March 28, 2021

Palm Sunday

 

Dear Friends, 

 Today with  the celebration of Palm Sunday we see how the people want to declare Jesus King. At least he is brought into Jerusalem as a King,

In the Bible people have wanted to bring Him into Jerusalem as a King several times.

On the mountainside at the miraculous bread multiplication, after seeing the miracles, the people wanted to proclaim Jesus as King. But Jesus goes into hiding, what a pity that people do not understand Him.

Even now when He goes up from the valley to Jerusalem via Bethphage and Bethany, they want to proclaim Him King again. A new David, who makes sure that people become boss again in their own country, who takes care of the little people. The desire in the people seems great for someone who brings deliverance in God's name.

And Jesus is playing the game, for the day will come when people will understand what Kingdom Jesus wants to be King over. He is entering Jerusalem, not high on horseback, as you might expect from a king, but He is sitting on a beast of burden, a donkey. You would think that it could not be less.

Palm Sunday; All over the world, people are reminding ourselves that one of us, Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, was overtaken as a King. Although welcome, He was watched and betrayed and caught. How He took leave of life, His will, made His covenant with people in bread and cup, in body and blood.


People come out of their houses and into the street to meet Him. Finally someone with heart on their sleeve, finally someone who doesn't mince words, finally someone you can hold on to. Even the city is revived.

He was welcomed with Hosanna shouting and waving of palms, but , treachery, and money came into their hands. Diplomatically sentenced to death, crucified outside the city.

The Kingship of Jesus ends in his condemnation. He was crucified, just as people are crucified every day. Every day people are mentally and physically destroyed by what others do to them. Through pettiness, through gossip, through elusive villiness, through bending upward and trampling down.

People are crucified every day, just like Jesus of Nazareth, they did not have to take Him away with Him, on the cross with Him.

The Passion is not a story of then and then. The coming week of suffering is not about a prophet whose name is spoken  in our mouths; so pronounced in a curse and a sigh, so that is also over !!!

No, the Passion is also about us people from 2021. People on the road, still. Wild seas and barren, inhospitable deserts, borders everywhere and unpredictable powers, the law of the strongest.

Everywhere still Pilates, Pharisees and Caiaphas who want a kingdom. But right through the tears of Good Friday, it will become clear, on Easter night, what kingdom Jesus wanted to be King of. Not a kingdom rooted in the standards of our world, not a kingdom as we think it should look like, but a kingdom based on love, justice and humility, as former Pope Benedict  regularly told us.

And we play a major role in this. How do we treat each other, how close is the passion story of others in our lives? Do we still have an eye for the suffering of others, or do we find it mainly nagging that we get poured out on us every day?

The Passion of Jesus is the Passion of all times. It means that we, you and I personally, are being invited to hasten the coming of God's kingdom, rather than putting our own kingdoms in the foreground.

It means that we are invited to work seriously for a world where people are still massively betrayed and handed over, where people are still being broken, sometimes only with words.

Palm Sunday: not a memory of that time, but a concrete assignment for people of today. Amen.



Father Ed Bakker



Sunday, March 21, 2021

Passion Sunday


 Dear Friends,

Saint John 8 v 46

 Before Abraham was, I am.

 

The cross is veiled.  We see but only “in a glass darkly.”  The veiled crosses of Passiontide remind us of a discomforting and yet profound truth.  We know and yet do not know the full and real meaning of Christ’s crucifixion.  Indeed, it is the struggle of our lives to come to understand more fully the significance of the Passion of Christ.  Everything in the ordered life of the Church, in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the sacramental liturgy, in  the pattern of the church year and especially during Lent, points to a mystery which we see but do not yet fully comprehend.  At the heart of it all must be our willingness to enter into the mystery of Christ’s passion in the hope that at last “[we] shall know even as [we are] known.”  But only through the intensity of the passion, only through the mystery of Christ crucified, the mystery of sin and salvation, the mystery of human redemption.  “The Cross shines forth in mystic glow” and we are illumined in its shadows.

 

For it, too, shall be said of us, as Jesus says to the mother of James and John, that “ye know not what ye ask.”  Such, after all, are the disorders of our desires.  We do not really know what we want.  Even more, it, too, shall be said of us what Jesus prays for on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Such are the consequences of the disorders of our desires – the agony of Christ’s crucifixion and the agonizing tenderness of the first word of the Crucified who prays for our forgiveness.

 

But such things can only be said of us if we enter into the way of the passion, the way of the cross.  We are precisely those who know not what we ask and know not what we do.  The veiled crosses of Passiontide signal the dark ignorance of our minds and the dreadful darkness of our wills.  We are the crucifiers; Christ is the crucified.  But what that means is only dimly seen.  The cross is veiled; present, but not clearly seen, an image hidden in the dark purple of sin and repentance, an image concealed in the dark purple of the royal divine.  The veiled crosses of Passiontide suggest the shadowland of sin and salvation, the shadowland of divine love and human redemption.   

 

Yet the veiled crosses of Passiontide reveal as much as they conceal.  They reveal the deeply conflicted and darkly contradictory nature of our humanity and they point to the heavenly king who reigns supreme from the tree.

 

O Tree of grace, the conquering sign,

Which dost in royal purple shine,

Gone is thy shame; for, lo, each bough

Proclaims the Prince of Glory now.

 

The late sixth century bishop and poet, Venantius Fortunatus, has captured the meaning of this day in his memorable hymn Vexilla Regis, which we have already sung.  A profound meditation upon the Passion of Christ, it signals the paradox of glory – the Crucified is King.  The shame is the glory.  And “by that death did life procure” “He reigns and triumphs from the Tree” whose “favoured branches bore / the wealth that did the world restore, / The priceless treasure, freely spent, / To pay for man’s enfrancshisement.”  The language of restoration and restitution, the language of sacrifice and substitution all belongs to the mystery of human redemption.  In a way, by hymn and liturgy, all is revealed.

 

And, yet, all is veiled.  We don’t get it and even when we think we know what we want – surely we want what is best for ourselves and for one another, for our children and the children of the world – we discover that we don’t really know what is best.  How can what is best for our humanity be realized through the grim horrors of a tortured and bloodied man nailed to a cross of wood?  How can dead wood become a living tree, “O Tree of grace”, that restores us to paradise and even more, to heaven?  Only through our awareness of the darkness of our unknowing and the destruction that our darkness causes.  Such is part and parcel of the Passion.  Such is part and parcel of the deep mystery of the Gospel itself.

 

Today’s gospel in our Canadian Prayer Book is rather unique.  It marks one of the few times where a change has been made to the appointed readings belonging to the Eucharistic lectionary of the Western Church.  The more ancient reading is from the 8th Chapter of The Gospel according to St.  John which tells the story of Christ’s encounter with those who accuse him of two things: first, not being a true Jew; and, secondly, having a demon.  Jesus responds by proclaiming his identity with the Father, God the Father, that is to say, and by proclaiming that in him the promises to Abraham have their fulfillment.  “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” And when pressed by his puzzled interlocutors, he makes the astounding statement, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  It is an outstanding proclamation of Christ’s essential divinity.

 

The reaction signals the necessity and the heart-rending poignancy of the Passion.  “They took up stones to throw at him.”  Our darkness is made visible in the face of the light of Christ.  The passage actually appears between the two places in John’s Gospel where Jesus identifies himself as “the light of the world.”  And in each case there is a connection to the dust of the earth, the dust wherein Jesus writes with his finger on the ground and speaks words of forgiveness to the woman taken in adultery, the dust out of which Jesus makes a healing poultice and bestows sight upon a man who was born blind.  Forgiveness and Glory.  And in response, there is only the darkness of animosity and the desire to extinguish the light.  Why?  Because we do not understand what is clearly stated.  Because we will not open our hearts and our minds to see what God wills for our good.  How, then, will we know more fully and more clearly?  Only through the Passion of Christ who makes visible our sin and who makes known God’s love.  Such is the point of the Passion.

 

We have to enter into it year after year.  It is really what the Church in her liturgy and life constantly proclaims in each and every service of the Holy Eucharist, namely, our participation in the Passion of Christ.  He suffers for us, to be sure, but to the end that we may know his love, the love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that immense and incommensurable love that we can never exhaust and never fully comprehend.  Only through the Passion in all of the grim horrors of our humanity in its ceaseless and endless disarray, it seems, can we even begin to contemplate “the breadth and length and depth and height” of that divine love which sets all loves in order.  In every service of the Holy Eucharist we are reminded of the Passion of Christ and of the grace that is given that we may participate in the Son’s thanksgiving to the Father.  For that redeems all our sins and makes us lovely even out of the unloveliness of our ignorance and the darkness of our sin.  Such is the purpose of Passiontide: to reveal, as the hymn puts it, “the rule of heaven.”

 

“Before Abraham was, I am” is that rule and that reality.  It points to the infinite mercy of the grace of God in Jesus Christ; he is “the perfect life”, the life that “was given.”  It proclaims the mystery that we can only enter into with the prayer that we may grow in understanding.  We go the way of the cross to behold the horror and the glory.

 

Somehow the shadows of the purple-veiled crosses of Passiontide illuminate the darkness of sin and show us the light of redemption.  The Eternal Son of the Everlasting Father wills to suffer for us; his passion, meaning his suffering, signals the divine love which wills our redemption.

 

“Before Abraham was, I am.”



Father Ed Bakker