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Notes for Lent 5 – John 8:46-59

by pastorjuhl ~ March 23rd, 2009

Pius Parsch, “The Church’s Year of Grace”

If Pre-Lent was only an introduction and the past four weeks a time of conversion and spiritual renewal, Passiontide in a special way commemorates Christ’s suffering.

Christ is surrounded by hostile Jews; already they are lifting stones to kill Him. His death was decided upon, the act has been actually accomplished in their hearts, but “His hour had not yet come.” Christ stands in their midst full of divine majesty, “Who of you can convict Me of sin?” “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

During the coming two weeks let us draw close to Christ in His bitter suffering, to Jesus the Man of Sorrows. Let us weep and sympathize with Him; but let us likewise regard Him as the conqueror upon the battlefield of Golgotha, with whom we too will be victorious.

Parsch says ancient Christian piety focused on the purpose and goal of Christ’s passion. the historical context takes second place. “By His suffering Christ redeemed us and made us children of God.

Liturgical piety does not tend to isolate virtues and examples for imitation; each person feels himself a member of the Body of Christ, and sees in earthly misfortunes, for instance, a participation in his Savior’s sufferings (c.f. 2 Corinthians 1:5).

Objective piety does not lack warmth; it too possesses a highly developed mysticism of suffering derived from the consciousness of union with Christ.

Dom Prosper Gueranger, “The Liturgical Year”

Personal note: Gueranger focuses on the Invitatory for Matins in Passiontide: Psalm 95:7b-8a, “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts.” I have used this in past years to prepare the faithful to intensify their Lenten preparation for Easter. Passiontide is the time to focus on the suffering and death of Jesus. Now more than ever we put aside earthly trivialities and focus upon Jesus Christ, the Friend of Sinners, doing the work His Father gives Him to do on our behalf.

During the preceding four weeks, we have noticed how the malice of Jesus’ enemies has been gradually increasing. His very presence irritates them; and it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long-nurtures hatred to a head. The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright; at the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stern purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messiah being a mighty conqueror, and the pharisee, who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make it the instrument of his own base passions. Still, Jesus goes on working miracles; His discourses are more than ever energetic; His prophecies foretell the fall of Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone. The doctors of the Law should, at least, reflect upon what they hear; they should examine these wonderful works, which render such strong testimony in favour of the Son of David; and they shoul consult those divine prophecies which, up to the present time, have been so literally fulfilled in His person. Alas, they themselves are about to carry them out to the very last iota. There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and Isaiah, as having to be put upon the Messiah, which these blind men are not scheming to verify (Vol. 6, p. 104-105).

Gueranger mentions the veiling of images in the Church begins today through the fortnight of Passiontide. There seems to be some disagreement concerning veiling of images. Sarum Rite congregations customarily veiled images throughout Lent. Other Western Rite congregation veil images during Holy Week. The practice of my current congregation is to veil images after the Stripping of the Altar on Maundy Thursday and remove the veils after Good Friday Vespers in anticipation for the Vigil of Easter. I may change the practice in 2010 to veil during Passiontide. Let the whole idea of veiling and when to veil (or if to veil) fall under the broad horizon of adiaphora. It would be nice, however, to see more congregations bring back this catholic custom during Passiontide.

Gueranger also mentions this Sunday always falling after the first new moon of spring. The placement of the first new moon of spring is important because it dictates what date Easter falls.

Lent 5 is also the Sunday when the “lesser Gloria” is omitted from the Divine Service. I try not to pick hymns with doxological stanzas. I also omit the Nunc Dimittis after the Holy Communion. The closer to Easter, the simpler the Service.

The feast of the Pasch is at hand; these men are going to eat, and with much parade of religion, the flesh of the figurative lamb; they know full well that this lamb is a symbol, or a figure, which is to have its fulfillment. The true Lamb is to be sacrificed by their hands, and they will not know Him. He will shed His Blood for them, and it will not save them. How this reminds us of those sinners, for whom this Easter promises to be as fruitless as those of the past years! Let us redouble our prayers for them, and beseech our Lord to soften their hearts, lest trampling the Blood of Jesus under their feet, they should have it to cry vengeance against them before the throne of the heavenly Father (6:115).

Church Fathers

For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist; and whosoever does not confess the martyrdom of the cross is of the devil (Epistle of Polycarp 7:1; ANF 1:34).

Wherefore, brethren, we do not commend those who give themselves up (for suffering), seeing the Gospel does not teach so to do (Martyrdom of Polycarp 4; ANF 1:40).

Let each one then ask himself whether he hears the Word of God with the ear of his heart, and understands whence it comes. For there are some who do not deign to hear the precepts of God, even with the ears of their body. And there are some who do indeed hear them with their ears, but embrace none of them with the desire of the soul. And some there are who freely receive the words of God, so that they are moved even to tears; but when the tears are over they return to their evil doing. These of a certainty to do not hear the words of God; because they despise them indeed (Gregory).

As the perversity of evil men increases, preaching should not grow less, rather it must be increased (Gregory).

Blessed Johann Gerhard

The Lord Christ had come up to Jerusalem for the Festival of Booths in order amidst such a general gathering to allow His teaching to sound forth in public and to instruct the Jews; namely that the deliverance out of Egypt and the bestowal of the land of Canaan…point to the deeds of the Messiah of how He would be revealed in the flesh and would take up residence with them. He would erect His booth among men, just as He led the children of Israel through the wilderness in ancient times. Also, the true Messiah was going to be the true Bread from heaven by which the believers shall be fed for eternal life, just as in ancient times the Israelites were fed with manna in the wilderness. Also, Christ shall lead all those who follow Him in true faith into the eternal Kingdom – just as in ancient times Joshua had led the Israelites into the Promised Land (Postilla 1:275).

Blessed Martin Luther’s House Postil

For it is true and beyond cavil that you cannot say anything more ultimate, and to judge a person more severly, than to say that he is not of God. Therefore, everything hinges on our gladly hearing and keeping God’s Word (1:355).

The most dreadful thing you can say to a person is, “You do not hear God’s Word; therefore, you are not of God” (1:356).

“To be of God” is to use one’s ears willingly to hear the preaching of God’s Word, willingly accept reproof when wrong has been committed, and also to pray, preach, instruct, comfort, reprimand, and give consolation with the tongue (1:357).

What is meant by keeping Christ’s Word? Nothing else than to believe what He promises us in the Gospel concerning the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, that it is true and that in faith we should hold fast to such hope (1:359).

Please look here for quotes from C.F.W. Walther.

2009 Hymn Plan (LSB): 429, 438, 437/425, 692

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