Liturgy Letter Newsletter – Seventh Sunday of Easter 2020 (Year A)

The Ascended Christ Sends His Spirit and Makes us One

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower his followers until his return (Acts 1:6-14). This promise gives us the strength to pray and follow God, even in the midst of suffering and anxiety. These things may last for a little while, but we are encouraged to stand firm knowing that Christ himself has prayed for us (1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11). Though orphans, he has promised us a home (Psalm 68: 1-10; 32-35). He has granted us eternal life and the fellowship of other believers, even while we wait (John 17:1-11).

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Liturgy Letter Newsletter – Sixth Sunday of Easter 2020 (Year A)

We Are God’s Offspring

The true God has been revealed to the whole world through the life and death of Jesus Christ (Acts 17:22-31). Because Jesus is Lord, we are blessed, even when we suffer (1 Peter 3:13-22). God cares for us and listens to our prayers, so we offer our gratitude and confess what he has done for us (Psalm 66:8-20). We find freedom and take joy in his commandments through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-21).

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Liturgy Letter Newsletter – Fifth Sunday of Easter 2020 (Year A)

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

We are not promised an easy life and may even suffer for our faith (Acts 7:55-60). Call out to God in the midst of shame and confusion, trusting in God’s steadfast love (Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16). Jesus is the cornerstone of salvation who was rejected on our behalf. Through Him, we have received mercy so that we may proclaim the mighty acts of him who has called us out of darkness into light (1 Peter 2:2-10). He is the way, truth, and life who has promised to prepare a place for us in the presence of the Father (John 14:1-14).

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Liturgy Letter Newsletter – Fourth Sunday of Easter 2020 (Year A)

Shepherd of the Sheep

Jesus is the gate to salvation (John 10:1-10). He is the guardian and shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:19-25). Those who follow and know his voice are called to patiently endure suffering and pray for abundant common life (Acts 2:42-47). Take comfort, God watches over his children and will lead them through death and into safety (Psalm 23).

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Liturgy Letter Newsletter – Third Sunday of Easter 2020 (Year A)

Astonished Hearts, Opened Eyes, Enlightened Minds

God has heard the cry of his people (Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19) and ransomed them from futile ways through the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:17-23). Repent, and be baptized (Acts 2:14a, 36-41). Jesus is risen and has revealed himself to those who had lost hope. He is the Messiah. The Suffering Servant whose blessed body was broken and given to those whose eyes were opened. They were astonished that he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:13-35).

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Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere! – Melito, Bishop of Sardis (180 A.D.) on the Resurrection

The Lord clothed himself with humanity,
and with suffering on behalf of the suffering one,
and bound on behalf of the one constrained,
and judged on behalf of the one convicted,
and buried on behalf of the one entombed,
rose from the dead and cried out aloud:

“Who takes issue with me? Let him stand before me.
I set free the condemned.
I gave life to the dead.
I raise up the entombed.
Who will contradict me?”

“It is I”, says the Christ,
“I am he who destroys death,
and triumphs over the enemy,
and crushes Hades,
and binds the strong man,
and bears humanity off to the heavenly heights.”

“It is I,” says the Christ.
“So come all families of people
adulterated with sin,
and receive forgiveness of sins.
For I am your freedom.
I am the Passover of salvation,

I am the lamb slaughtered for you,
I am your ransom,
I am your life,
I am your light,
I am your salvation,
I am your resurrection,
I am your King.
I shall raise you up by my right hand,
I will lead you to the heights of heaven,
there shall I show you the everlasting father.”

He it is who made the heaven and the earth,
and formed humanity in the beginning,
who was proclaimed through the law and the prophets,
who took flesh from a virgin,
who was hung on a tree,
who was buried in earth,
who was raised from the dead,
and ascended to the heights of heaven,
who sits at the right hand of the father,
who has the power to save all things,
through whom the father acted from the beginning and for
ever.

This is the alpha and omega,
this is the beginning and the end,
the ineffable beginning and the incomprehensible end.
This is the Christ,
this is the King,
this is Jesus,

this is the commander,
this is the Lord,
this is he who rose from the dead,
this is he who sits at the right hand of the father,
he bears the father and is borne by him.
To him be the glory and the might forever.
Amen.

Melito (Bishop of Sardis) in On Pascha, St. Valdimir Press, 2001, pg. 65-67

Liturgy Letter Newsletter – Second Sunday of Easter 2020 (Year A)

Faith in the Risen Son of God

Jesus Christ has risen from the dead (Acts 2:14a, 22-32). Therefore, God is always before us. He has the power and authority to save us from the curse of death and show us the path of life (Psalm 16). Through Jesus, we have been given new birth into a living hope, as we wait in faith, for the promise of salvation to be fully revealed (1 Peter 1:3-9). Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit to guide us on our journey toward the consummation of our faith. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have come to believe (John 20:19-31).

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Liturgy Letter Newsletter – Holy Week 2020 (Year A)

Holy Week

Lent began over five weeks ago on Ash Wednesday. Over the course of this week, Christians around the world will re-enact and remember the days leading up to Christ’s death and resurrection. This journey towards the cross began on Palm Sunday with a commemoration of Jesus entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people who confessed and praised him as the Savior King later cry out, “…crucify him, crucify him!”

On Monday and Tuesday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem from Bethany and purified the Temple, fulfilling prophecies from the Old Testament (ex. Malachi 3:1-5). In Jerusalem, tensions continued to run high between Jesus and the religious rulers. Wednesday of Holy week is traditionally called “Spy Wednesday” because the enemies of Jesus were watching him closely and looking for an opportunity to capture him. On this day, the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany is juxtaposed with the tragic betrayal of Judas.  

Paschal Triduum

The most striking worship celebrations of the Christian church happen every year at the end of the Lenten season. There is no greater contrast between darkness and light than the eclipse and glory that were experienced by Jesus’ disciples between the Last Supper and Easter morning. For centuries, Christians have marked the progression of these events through worship. They reenact these bedrock events to honor Christ, celebrate salvation, and grow in the way of Jesus through imitation and reflection. This period of time in the Church’s calendar has traditionally been referred to as the Paschal Triduum or “The Three Days.”

Maundy Thursday

On this day, Jesus commemorated the Passover meal with his disciples, an observance of God rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt. In celebrating this observance, Jesus was pointing to the new covenant he would make with God’s people, rescuing them from spiritual slavery to sin and death. Before the meal, he washed the feet of his disciples and instituted the Lord’s Supper (Communion, Eucharist, Mass). In so doing, our servant King provided a means of grace and an example for us to follow. Christian participation in these practices reflects upon the new command of Jesus to, “Love each other as I have loved you.” 

Good Friday

Good Friday is a reminder of the darkness experienced by Christ on our behalf. Out of true death, comes true life. His death and resurrection comprise the mysteries at the very heart of the Christian faith. On this day, Christ became the, “…Paschal (Passover) Lamb of our salvation, by whose blood we have been purchased unto God as His own consecrated people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. Christians today gather at the foot of the cross with Mary the Lord’s Mother, the beloved disciple John, the repentant Mary Magdalene and her several companions, the confessing Centurion and all others who have, down through the ages…been made holy by the redeeming act of the God who loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

Holy Saturday

This is officially the last day of the Lenten fast. There has been some controversy as to what exactly happened on this day, but the profound symbolism of Christ resting in the tomb while humanity waits for the resurrection runs deep in Eastern and Western Christian traditions. On this day, we wait for his resurrection and rest in prayer, by meditating on his passion, death, and descent to the dead.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, also has been a traditional symbol connected to Holy Saturday. In Western Catholic tradition Mary represents the entire Church on Holy Saturday, “As she awaited in faith for the victorious triumph of Her Son over death on the first Holy Saturday, so we too wait with Mary on the present Holy Saturday.” This prayerful waiting has been called the “Ora della Madre” or Hour of the Mother.

God does not redeem from afar. The Word descended into our humanity; the Lord descended into the depths of our suffering; Christ descended into the very realm of death itself in order to set free its captives. There is life in the midst of death because love dwells in it. Thanks be to God.

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