My prayer for you as we enter more deeply into the mystery of Holy Week

Christ carries his cross in this 16th century oil-on-canvas work on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (Wikimedia Commons)

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

For my meditation this morning I was using a sermon Cardinal Newman once gave on Palm Sunday (“The Incarnate Son, a Sufferer and Sacrifice,” Parochial and Plain Sermons, VI.6), and I thought of you when I read this paragraph:

“We are now approaching that most sacred day when we commemorate Christ’s passion and death. Let us try to fix our minds upon this great thought. Let us try, what is so very difficult, to put off other thoughts, to clear our minds of things transitory, temporal, and earthly, and to occupy them with the contemplation of the Eternal Priest and His one ever-enduring Sacrifice; — that Sacrifice which, though completed once for all on Calvary, yet ever abideth, and, in its power and its grace, is ever present among us, and is at all times gratefully and awfully to be commemorated, but now especially, when the time of year is come at which it was made. Let us look upon Him who was lifted up that He might draw us to Him; and, by being drawn one and all to Him, let us be drawn to each other, so that we may understand and feel that He has redeemed us one and all, and that, unless we love one another, we cannot really have love to Him who laid down His life for us” (pp. 69-70).

I thought of you because, as Newman says, it is, indeed, very difficult to penetrate the meaning of the mystery of the Lord’s Pasch, and so I want you to know that, as part of my service as your shepherd and spiritual father, in these days I hold you in prayer that the Holy Spirit enlighten not only your minds but also your hearts grasp more deeply the significance of what we celebrate in these most holy days.

At the beginning of this sermon, Newman explained to his congregation what he aimed to do: “With the hope, then, of suggesting to you some serious thoughts for the week which begins with this day, I will make a few remarks, such as the text suggests, upon that dreadful yet most joyful event, the passion and death of our Lord.” I find that what he so humbly refers to as his “few remarks” contains powerful insights about the Christ’s passion. In the hope that I can assist you in your observance of the Sacred Triduum by making Newman’s reflections readily available to you, I forward this link to the sermon: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/parochial/volume6/sermon6.html.

Mindful of all the many challenges we face in being Christ’s faithful disciples in this age, I make my own for all of us the prayer with which Newman ends his sermon: “God grant that we may not pervert and dilute His holy Word, put upon it the false interpretations of men, reason ourselves out of its strictness, and reduce religion to an ordinary common-place matter — instead of thinking it what it is, a mysterious and supernatural subject, as distinct from any thing that lies on the surface of this world, as day is from night and heaven from earth!” And echoing Blessed John Henry, I express my hope that we be drawn ever more closely to our High Priest in these days when we especially remember his sacrifice, and so be drawn closer to each other, and in that love grow in love for our Lord.

With prayers for you and those you love, I offer my best wishes for joy in celebrating the Pasch of Jesus Christ.

Yours fraternally,

The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit