The Gospel today [yesterday, at the time of this posting] is fairly self-explanatory, though it deserves time for reflection and prayer. The Missal instructions priests that a brief homily may be given. In the face of Christ’s passion, brevity is good. We don’t need to talk; we need to listen.
In his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul speaks of Christ’s passion, saying that
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
In the Second Council of Lyon (1274), Pope Gregory X went a step further:
Those who assemble in church should extol with an act of special reverence that name with is above every name, than which no other under heaven has been given to people, in which believers must be saved, the name, that is, of Jesus Christ, who will save his people from their sins.
Each should fulfil in himself that which is written for all that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; whenever that glorious name is recalled, especially during the sacred mysteries of the mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head.
For those who were raised in the era of the Baltimore Catechism (or by those who were), the names of Jesus elicited a bow of the head at all times. In fact, for priests, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (the directives for clergy in the Mass) specifically calls for this – and more:
A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.”
This week we have an opportunity to not only bow our heads or bend our knees, but to enter as deeply as possible into the mysteries of Christ in worship. The Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday – is the highest point of Catholic celebration. On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist. On Good Friday we venerate the cross, the symbol of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.
Finally, on Holy Saturday we somberly consider our own participation in Christ’s suffering as we anticipate the joyful celebration of the Easter Vigil – wherein we recall the entirety of creation, salvation history and finally, Christ’s resurrection, we joyfully proclaim God’s glory and sing for the first time in 40 days ‘alleluia!’, we receive with happiness the catechumens and candidates into full communion with the Church.
If there was any time of the year to take a few days off from work, to set aside tasks and projects, this is it. Bow your head at the name of Jesus – and lift your hearts at the salvation He has won for us.
your brother in Christ,