Traitor!

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Today is Spy Wednesday, so called because of the conspiracy hatched by Judas with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty-pieces of silver. Judas was paid even before he delivered Our Savior to His enemies. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him (Matt.24:16).

Much speculation is tossed around today about the fate of the miserable traitor. In spite of the almost universal agreement of the Fathers and the teaching of the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure, there are those who feel it is important to depopulate hell. In spite of Our Lord’s own words: The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born (Matt. 26:24), there still those who want to rehabilitate Judas.

And then, of course, there is the National Geographic Society, that powerhouse of “scientific inquiry” that has attempted to enlighten benighted Christians to the effect that Judas is not a traitor at all, but a hero! And, of course, they so piously reserved the revelation of their “discovery” for Easter of last year.

My point is not to revel in the thought of the fact that Judas is in hell. I am all for hope, and we need much of it today; however, one of the snares in the spiritual life is to swing between presumption and despair. Hope is in the middle. It is a severe and determined realism. Judas was not a victim, and he does not deserve rehabilitation. There are virtually no signs of his salvation is Sacred Scripture. His throwing the silver pieces back at the Sanhedrin and his declaration that he had betrayed innocent blood, led not to his repentance, but to his suicide.

In moral theology a distinction is made between true contrition and defective contrition or remorse. Remorse, that is, regret for having sinned, does not necessarily amount to conversion and repentance. There is always the need to seek forgiveness and to make amends. Judas did none of this. I have no problem with rational arguments, but touchy-feely sentimentality will not aid us in the salvation of our souls.

How about this for Holy Week paraliturgical sentimentality?

In Poland, the young people throw an effigy of Judas from the top of a church steeple. Then it is dragged through the village amidst hurling sticks and stones. What remains of the effigy is drowned in nearby stream or pond.

None of this is to say that I have a right to act as though I am so far above it all, and casually blog about the reprobate God-killer. This is the Week of Mercy, and we all need it!

St. Philip Neri, the saint who at the end of his life died of love (his heart ruptured), used to pray this every morning: “O Jesus, watch over me always, especially today, or I shall betray you like Judas.”

Noble Blood Ready to Spill and Be Spilled

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They insulted me and filled me with dread, but the Lord was at my side, like a mighty warrior (Vespers, Holy Tuesday).

Earlier today, I was reading a chapter from Léon Gautier’s work, Chivarly, on the life of of the medieval knight in his youth. Gautier asserts that the military calling was the vocation of noble blood. In the life of a noble youth, it was as though prowess and an inclination for the fight was built in, and burgeoned almost as soon as the boy could pick up a stick to wield it as a weapon.

The fighting spirit led Jesus to enter Jerusalem. His war was with the ancient dragon and He was not afraid to die. I quote at length a passage from Gautier’s Chivarly on the youthful Charlemagne, as an illustration of the noble fighting spirit: Continue reading

Noble Behavior in Holy Week

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The following is an account of the Holy Week piety of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Try this on for size, ladies:

Nothing can express the fervor, love, and pious veneration, with which she celebrated those holy days, on which the Church, by ceremonies so touching, and so expressive, recalls to the mind of the faithful, the sorrowful and unspeakable mystery your redemption. On Holy Thursday, imitating the King of Kings, who, on this day, rising from table, laid aside his garments, the daughter of the king of Hungary, putting off whatever could remind her of worldly pomps, dressed herself in poor clothes, and, with only sandals on her feet, went to visit different churches. On this day, she washed the feet of twelve poor men, sometimes lepers, and gave to each twelve pieces, a white dress, and a loaf.

All the next night she passed in prayer and meditation upon our Lord’s passion. In the morning, it being the day on which the divine sacrifice was accomplished, she said to her attendants, “This day is a day humiliation for all: I desire that none of you do show me any mark of respect.” Then she would put on the same dress as before, and go barefoot to the churches, taking with her certain little packets of linen, incense, and small tapers; and, kneeling before one altar, would place thereon of these, and, prostrating herself would pray awhile most devoutly, and so pass to another altar, till she had visited all. At the door of the church she gave large alms, but was pushed about by the crowd, who did not know her. Some courtiers reproached her for the meanness of her gifts as unworthy of a sovereign. But though, at other times, her alms-deeds were most abundant, so that few ever were more splendidly liberal to the poor, yet a certain divine instinct in her heart taught her, how, in such days, she should not play the queen, but the poor sinner, for whom Christ died.

The Church Militant or Impotent?

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I just posted an entry on a tragic Holy Week real estate deal on AirMaria, and that has provoked some further reflection on my part. Holy Monday is a time to reflect humbly upon our own sinful betrayal of Jesus Christ.

The Church Militant is fighting for its identity. Leon Podles argues that our Church has been feminized and emasculated. It has become, in his words, the Church Impotent.

The closing of our Churches has many causes, and I am not here to play the blame game; however, this tragedy is reflective of the loss of our missionary spirit, and the sacrificial spirit of Holy Week. So now we can celebrate Holy Week by buying a closed Church . . . and do what with it? Partition it into an upscale apartment, like the one in the picture above? Or how about a garden show, like the one below?

sacredheartgardenshow.jpg Continue reading