The Bread of life
A Journey into the Father's Heart
"The Passover Sacrifice" by Deacon Marc L. Gauthier
Back in the early nineties I had the privilege to hear Scott Hahn speak at a small parish up the valley in Braeside, a small town just the other side of Arnprior about an hour east of Ottawa. At around the same time the Catholic magazine, This Rock, published an article he hade written entitled "The Hunt for the Fourth Cup" in the September 1991 edition.
I went to hear Professor Hahn, a rather well-known Roman Catholic who used to be a Presbyterian Minister, at the prompting of a friend. "Go ahead," he said. "You won't be sorry."
I drove up alone. Rosemary, my wife, couldn't make it due to a previous engagement. I really didn't know what to expect. The Church was nearly three-quarters full. I sat near the back, of course, at the end of a pew, so that I could sneak out when I'd heard enough.
The speaker was introduced. I don't remember how he was introduced because, in a few minutes, it didn't matter. He was on fire. He spoke with conviction. He spoke so clearly. Within a very short period of time I realizedI was leaning forward, on the edge of my seat, captured by the Holy Spirit.
At one point I remember briefly looking around at the others in amazement. "Are you hearing what I'm hearing," I thought. I was pretty sure they were. We were hanging on every word that Scott was sharing with us. This was truly an anointed time. We were receiving Spirit filled teaching.
With clarity and conviction he led us through from one portion of Scripture to another showing us how Old Testament fine points were being fulfilled in the New Testament and how Jesus' ultimate goal was to restore communion with us and our Heavenly Father through the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
As his launching pad, Scott drew attention to the confusion that had existed in his mind about the meaning of Jesus' words from the cross when He said, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). More specifically, Scott asked, what did "it" refer to? Along with so many others, I thought it referred to his work of redemption. But Scott pointed out that our redemption was not complete without Jesus' rising from the dead.
So what was "it" all about?
We know that Jesus ate the Passover meal with his apostles on the night he was betrayed. This was Holy Thursday, the eve of his sacrifice of love on the cross for us.
We often hear of the Paschal Mystery - Paschal being another word for Passover.The first Passover, described in the book of Exodus in Old Testament records, was God's first covenant with His chosen people. In the first covenant God was showing us that He wanted us to live like Him in our daily lives. In the New Covenant we are reborn of water and the Spirit so that we might live in God and Him in us. (For more on this, please read Scott Hahn's book A Father Who Keeps His Promises.)
What is a covenant? It is a formal, solemn and binding promise between two or more parties. Each party must live up to its end of the bargain (see A Father Who Keeps His Promises, p. 24). In the promise or covenant made with Abraham, God swore by himself saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you," and "I will be your God and you will be My people" (see Hebrews 6:13-16 and Exodus 36:28).
So, Jesus came to establish a New Covenant with us. Actually when we read John 3:16, one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, we hear from Jesus' lips the new promise or covenant of the Father proclaimed: "God so loved the world [that's you and me] that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life." The Father is in effect saying, "I give you My Word - this is my oath, my pledge - I will love you with an everlasting love."
At the Passover meal which we call the Last Supper - it probably should be called the 'First Supper of the NewCovenant' - Jesus "took a cup, and when He had given thanks [eucharistesas in Greek] He gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And He said to them, 'This is My Blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many" "(Mark 14:23- 24). Scott Hahn pointed out that in Jesus' mind, as both the Firstborn Son and the Lamb of God, there was a connection between the Passover of old and the Passover in which he was about to offer or sacrifice himself. By this oblation, the New Covenant was to be established.
What follows astounded me: The Passover meal was divided into four parts, each represented by a cup of wine. The first part was a festival blessing spoken over the first cup. In the second part, the story was retold of how God set his people free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt so that they would not forget the cost of freedom. This was followed by the drinking of the second cup. Lamb and unleavened bread were then eaten as the main course in the third part of the Passover meal. The cup in this part was known as the cup of blessing. It was over this cup that Jesus prayed a blessing and distributed his blood as the sign of the new covenant. St. Paul points out to us that this cup was, indeed, the Eucharistic cup (see 1 Corinthians 10:16).
The fourth cup was known as the cup of praise or cup of completion, indicating that the covenant was now ratified. St. Mark's Gospel indicates that Jesus left the table before drinking the final cup. Where did Jesus complete the Passover covenant? Where did He partake of the final cup? From the table Jesus went to the garden and entered into His agony, taking upon Himself the sin of the world. Three times He prayed for His Father to take away "this cup". Where was this cup to be found?
From the cross, the altar on which hung the Lamb of God, the Saviour of the world, Jesus declared that it wastime.After asking forgiveness for His persecutors, after welcoming the repentant thief into paradise, after entrusting us into the hands of our Blessed Mother and after experiencing abandonment from God because of the sin of the world Jesus said, " thirst!"
"There was a jar there, full of common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop
His Father accepted the offering of his Son, the unblemished Lamb, and in response, He raised Jesus
And the rest, as they say, is history, whenever we receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
I drove home that day with tears running down my cheeks. My vision, no, my sight was frequently blurred. And even as I kept wiping tears from eyes so I could see where I was going on the road, and thanking God for the great privilege of sitting under his anointing that day, I knew that my faith had been transformed in a major way. I had been given to taste what it means to walk - leap and run - by faith, and not by sight.
"Worship and Mary: A Dilemma?" by Fr. Robert Hétu
How often have we heard from our non-Catholic friends or even family members, "Why do Catholics worship Mary? It is not in the Bible!" But do we? We do pray to Mary; it would be counter-productive to say that we do not, since our teachings are quite clear. Yes, we do pray to Mary and to the Saints. The crux of this problem lies, however, in our dual usage of the English word 'prayer' that signifies both worship (latria) and honour and veneration (dulia). Latria, of course, is only given to God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit; whereas dulia is given to honour and venerate Mary and all the Saints.
Yet, why do we honour and venerate Mary and the Saints in the first place? The constant tradition of the Church, from the earliest ages of Christianity, has always upheld this 'specialness' of Mary and the Saints. This is amply seen in the the writings of the early Popes, early Councils of the Church, and early Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Even in the Apostles Creed, which is professed by not only Catholics, but the Orthodox, the Anglicans, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, and the United Church of Canada just to name a few, reads, "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary...I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints..." It is our belief in the 'Communion of Saints' that supports our tradition.
The Communion of Saints is the belief where all saints are intimately related in the Mystical Body of Christ, as a family. When you die and go to heaven, you do not leave this family. Everyone in heaven or on their way to heaven is a saint: you, me, my deceased parents, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Blessed Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. As part of this family, we may ask our family and friends living here on earth to pray for us, or, we may also ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint André Bessette, Saint Clement, and other Saints, or our deceased relatives living in heaven, to pray for us. Prayer (dulia) to the Saints in heaven is simple communication, not worship (latria). Asking others to pray for us, whether our loved ones are on earth or our loved ones are in heaven, is always optional. To worship (latria) Mary or any Saint would be a grave sin, because worship(latria) is reserved for God alone.
Critics of Marian devotion contend that the Bible does not say to honour Mary and, therefore, it should not be done. However, in Luke's gospel, Mary's cousin Elizabeth said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb," and Mary acknowledges this blessing by saying, "All generations shall call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). Both women realized that Mary was uniquely blessed because she was entrusted with the privilege of carrying Jesus, the Son of God, in her womb. She alone was chosen for the highest honour in the history of creation. Catholics understand that if she is special enough for God to honour her, then she is certainly special enough for us to honour her too.
In the Book of Genesis, we read how our first parents, Adam and Eve, fell into original sin. Satan, a fallen angel in the form of a serpent, first tempted Eve. When Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, she then offered it to Adam, who also partook. Adam, as head of the human race, brought about the fall of humankind; it was, however, through the cooperation of Eve. However, when Adam and Eve had fallen, God not only punished them and their descendants for this original sin, but God also promised to send a Redeemer. "And the Lord God said to the serpent.... I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:13,15). Who is the "woman" in the text of Scripture of whom God set enmities against Satan? Who is 'her offspring'? Of course, the answer is given in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, Adam brought about the fall of humankind with the cooperation of Eve. In the New Testament, Jesus, the God-Man, brought about our Redemption with the cooperation of his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Eve, our first parent, was tempted by a fallen angel to disobey the command of God, and she subsequently led Adam into sin. In the New Testament, another angel, the Angel Gabriel, announced the will of God to Mary and she, unlike Eve, humbly cooperated.
St. Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy, "There is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human" (2:5). In regard to St. Paul's statement, St. Thomas Aquinas points
Since, as we have seen, Mary's redeeming role was coextensive with that of her Son Jesus, but subordinated to it, her mediation, while subordinate to that of Jesus, is universal - extending to all people and all graces, as Pope Pius X clearly explains in his encyclical on the Immaculate Conception, Ad Diem Illum. However, as several theologians point out in Christ, and His Sacraments:" This does not mean that our redemption is partly the work of Christ and partly the work of Mary. Our redemption is entirely from God, the first cause of grace; it is entirely from Jesus, the principal and perfect mediator; and it is entirely from Mary, a mediator fully subordinated to Christ. The position given to Mary is both an honour conferred upon her, which gives her a share in divine causality, and a concession to our weakness... Mary's mediation adds nothing necessary to the universal, infinite mediation of Christ. It is, however, of great help to us" (Dolan, Cunningham and Rock, Christ, andHis Sacraments, Priory Press, 1958, p. 276).
We are now in a better position to answer the question posed in the beginning: DO CATHOLICS WORSHIP MARY? We do not offer her the homage of adoration, which is reserved for God alone, nor do we pray to her as if she alone could grant the graces and favours we seek. Mary is our co-redeemer,with Jesus, in a unique sense. Hence her rightful place is with Jesus our Redeemer in heavenly glory. The term co-redeemer means "cooperator with the Redeemer." This is what St. Paul meant when he said, "We are God's co-workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9).
Knowing the redeeming role that Mary shares with her Son, through whom God distributes all the graces won for humankind on Calvary, and knowing the great power of intercession she has before the throne of God, we do
Let me conclude with these powerful words of St. Bernard de Clairvaux:
In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips; never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favour, you shall reach the goal.
May we all meet again in heaven, rejoicing in the presence of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit and in the company of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother and all the Saints. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!