30 April 2015

Excellent Eastertide U.S. Recordings


One of my favourite Eastertide recordings is 'EASTER: Hymns, Carols, and Anthems' from All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, California.  I think it is one of the best recordings of its kind with a mixed voice chorus in the United States.  The arrangements are splendid, and the voicing of the recording is very good. Click below on the Amazon image of the album to listen to previews at Amazon.  If you cannot find it locally, obviously Amazon has it on offer.  But do try to 'Buy Local' as my friends here like to say.

Another Eastertide recording of great worth is 'Easter Triumph, Easter Joy' from the Shrine and Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. 

 [The CD I have has a couple of voicing issues where the brass seem to stand out above the chorus too much.  But I am very, very picky.]  

All in all it is a recording of superb quality from one of the rare bastions of excellent choral music in the Catholic Church in the USA. 

27 April 2015

Paul Creston: Psalm 23


Psalm 23 by Paul Creston
Jeff Prillaman, tenor 
Dr. Charles Hulin IV, piano


26 April 2015

Comes Wisdom

"In our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair,
against our will, comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God."


25 April 2015



During this Paschaltide please do listen to RADIO WALSINGHAM ONLINE.  The station is an apostolate of Our Lady of Walsingham Institutes of Catholic Culture Studies in Houston, Texas.  The music will be as a blessing upon your daily duties and night watches.

If you do not care for the annoying commercials, you may wish to join Live365.com as a VIP member for $6 a month (at the present moment) and then listen without commercial interruption.  VIP members hear much more beautiful music during the day.


22 April 2015

Richard J. Clark's 'Lumen Christi'


Lumen Christi
Paschal Candle Processional
by Richard J. Clark
Saint Cecilia Parish Choir, Boston


16 April 2015

Bach: Oster-Oratorium, BWV 249


Johann Sebastian Bach
Easter Oratorio (in German: Oster-Oratorium), BWV 249
Václav Luks conducts Collegium 1704 


15 April 2015

The Simplest 'Regina coeli' in English


A friend asked if there was a very simple setting in English of Regina coeli laetare that his musically challenged parish could learn and sing.  

The easiest by far is to use the melody sung to the Easter hymn Jesus Christ is risen today with the following text:  

Joy to thee, O Queen of heav'n!  Alleluia!
He whom it was thine to bear; Alleluia!
As He promised hath aris'n; Alleluia!
pray for us to God above. Alleluia!

The contractions heav'n and aris'n may take some getting used to, but as a text and tune it is the very simplest I know about.  

The only published version of this text with which I am familiar is to be found in the St. Ambrose Hymnal of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.  In that hymnal the text can be found as the fourth verse of the Paschal hymn Jesus Christ is risen today.

[The tune is usually called 'EASTER HYMN' and is an altered form taken from Lyra Davidica, 1708.  The metre is 77.77 with alleluias.]


14 April 2015

Bearing Witness: Psalm 66: 16-20


     16   Come and hear, all you who fear God;
                let me tell you what he has done for me.

     17   I cried out to him with my mouth;
                his praise was on my tongue.

     18   If I had cherished sin in my heart,
                the Lord would not have listened;

     19   but God has surely listened
                and has heard my prayer.

     20   Praise be to God,
                who has not rejected my prayer
                or withheld his love from me!

Psalm 66:16-20 
[orig. NIV]


13 April 2015

Ēriks Ešenvalds - O Salutaris Hostia


“When you live life like a saint, and when you die, 
this is what you hear in Paradise."

O Salutaris Hostia
Ēriks Ešenvalds

Hannah Partridge
Rachel Ambrose Evans
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge

Stephen Layton, Conductor


12 April 2015

Ola Gjeilo: "SUNRISE MASS"


Audiences have been tremendously enthusiastic about Ola Gjeilo's compositions.  To my mind Gjeilo's 'Sunrise Mass' can only be compared to Morten Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna" — and today's audiences (who are starving spiritually) need to hear both works.   May you be blest in listening to this masterpiece of beauty and faith.

Sunrise Mass 
by Ola Gjeilo
Bel Canto Choir Vilnius
Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra
Arturas Dambrauskas, conductor


Дивна Любоевич, Пасхальный концерт

A Blessèd Pascha 
To all of my Orthodox Christian family and friends!

Christos voskrese!
Christ is risen! 

Дивна Любоевич, Пасхальный концерт 2012.04.16
Divna Lyubojevich, Paschal Concert 16 April AD 2012


Quasimodogeniti Sunday: Alleluia Verses


Alleluia after First Reading:

Second Alleluia:


Elgar's 'The Kingdom', Op. 51


Elgar's The Kingdom, Op.51


Serbian Orthodox Pascha Hymn


Easter song performed by musical orchestra ''Stupovi'' 
and various Serbian singers and celebrities, 
dedicated to the resurrection of Christ, 
made as a part of an appeal for funds 
for reconstruction of medieval Serbian orthodox  
Monastery ''Pillars of Saint George''

Ljudi likujte, narodi čujte:
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Zvezde igrajte, gore pevajte,
Hristos voskrese, radost donese!
Šume šumite, vetri brujite,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Mora gudite, zveri ričite,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Pčele se rojte, a ptice pojte
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!

Anđeli stojte, pesmu utrojte,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Nebo se snizi, zemlju uzvisi,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Zvona zvonite, svima javite,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Slava ti Bože, sve ti se može,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Anđeli stojte, pesmu utrojte,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Nebo se snizi, zemlju uzvisi,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Zvona zvonite, svima javite,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!
Slava ti Bože, sve ti se može,
Hristos voskrse, radost donese!

Sv. Vladika Nikolaj

People rejoice, all nations listen:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Dance all ye stars and sing all ye mountains:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Whisper ye woods and blow all ye winds:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
O seas proclaim and roar all ye beasts:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Buzz all ye bees and sing all ye birds:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
O little lambs rejoice and be merry:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Nightingales joyous, lending your song:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Ring, O ye bells, let everyone hear:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

All angels join us, singing this song:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Come down ye heavens, draw near the earth:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Glory to Thee, God Almighty!
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Glory to Thee, God Almighty!
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

11 April 2015

Stephanie Martin: Now the Queen of Seasons


Here is a splendid new composition by Stephanie Martin sung by the Pax Christi Chorale and students from Fr. John Redmond Catholic School and conducted by the composer herself:

Now the Queen of Seasons
Stephanie Martin, composer


10 April 2015

Phillips Brooks Easter Hymn of the Angels


Bishop Phillips Brooks
It is time to share with you, dear Reader, an Easter hymn by Phillips Brooks, an Episcopalian bishop, upon the neglected theme of the Holy Angels of the Day of Resurrection.  (No doubt you are familiar with his Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem.)

The text of Phillips Brooks hymn printed below is taken from The Wartburg Hymnal, that remarkable hymnbook so influential upon the editors of The Hymnal 1940. The text deserves a new hymn tune, but it can be sung to the tune 'ST GERTRUDE' (Onward, Christian Soldiers) which many still know.   But for now let us read it, pray it, and ruminate upon it:

GOD hath sent His angels to the earth again,
Bringing joyful tidings to the Sons of men.
They who first at Christmas, thronged the heav'nly way,
Now beside the tomb-door sit on Easter Day.
Angels, sing His triumph as you sang His birth,
“Christ, the Lord is risen.”
“Peace, good will on earth.”

In the dreadful desert, where the Lord was tried,
There the faithful angels gathered at His side;
And when, in the garden, grief and pain and care
Bowed Him down with anguish, they were with Him there.
Angels, sing His triumph as you sang His birth,
“Christ, the Lord is risen.”
“Peace, good will on earth.”

Yet the Christ they honor, is the same Christ still,
Who, in light and darkness, did His Father's will;
And the tomb deserted, shineth like the sky,
Since He passed out from it, into victory.
Angels, sing His triumph as you sang His birth,
“Christ, the Lord is risen.”
“Peace, good will on earth.”

God has still His angels, helping at His Word,
And His faithful children, like their faithful Lord;
Soothing them in sorrow, arming them in strife,
Opening wide the tomb-doors, leading into life.
Angels, sing His triumph as you sang His birth,
“Christ, the Lord is risen.”
“Peace, good will on earth.”

Father, send Thine angels unto us, we pray;
Leave us not to wander, all alone our way;
Let them guard and guide us, whereso'er we be,
Till our resurrection brings us home to Thee.
Angels, sing His triumph as you sang His birth,
“Christ, the Lord is risen.”
“Peace, good will on earth.”

The Right Reverend Phillips Brooks
Christmas Songs and Easter Carols


Schola Magdalena: Stephanie Martin's 'Alleluia'


Schola Magdalena sing Alleluia by Canadian composer Stephanie Martin.  The piece is sung and recorded in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Anglican) in Toronto.


Healey Willan's HAEC DIES


I think those in the Catholic Church who love the Anglican Patrimony would be interested in the composer Healey Willan's contributions to an older Basilian hymnal entitled The New Saint Basil Hymnal.   This hymnal bears the Imprimatur of H.E. James Cardinal McGuigan of Toronto.  

Willan's Mass of Saint Teresa (No. 227) is included as one of the congregational Mass settings in Latin. There is also a very singable four-part setting of HAEC DIES for Easter at No. 43.  Willan's HAEC DIES is an elegant composition that a quartet, a modest chorus or a large choir could sing successfully.  Anyone familiar with Willan's Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena in THE HYMNAL 1940 would find the musical idiom of The Mass of Saint Teresa very familiar.  (I would think that Ordinariate communities would be well served by having in common a congregational setting in Latin by such an august Anglican composer.)  

It is not as easy to find copies of The New Saint Basil Hymnal as once it was, but copies still can be found from time to time on eBay and online booksellers.  

Healey Willan's The Mass of St. Theresa can be purchased separately from the Healey Willan Society (Fr. Scott Haynes of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago)at this LINK.


Fr. Philips' Easter Hymn


Please head on over to Fr. Christopher G. Phillips' blog and do read his splendid Paschal hymn 'God our Father, Lord of Glory' (which is to be sung to the vigorous Welsh hymn tune 'CWM RHONDDA').  [Note: the original page is no longer online, but I have linked to the page saved by the Internet Web Archive.]

Allow me to share with you the first verse so as to whet your appetite for more:

God our Father, Lord of glory,
Thanks and praise we give to Thee;
In Thy mercy to our fathers,
Thou didst bring them through the sea.
So by water hast Thou saved us,
|: Now from Adam's sin set free. :|

I sincerely hope that this hymn will be sung in Eastertide by those of us of the Anglican diaspora wherever we may be. 


09 April 2015

St. Cyril of Alexandria on the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

“Here observe, I pray, and mark accurately the Saviour’s words. For while it was easy to have said, “That there was such and such a rich man whoever it might be,” He does not say so, but simply calls him a rich man; while He mentions the poor man by name. 

“What conclusion, therefore, must we draw? That the rich man as being uncompassionate was nameless in God’s presence; for He has somewhere said by the voice of the Psalmist, concerning those who do not fear Him, “I will not make mention of their names with My lips” [Ps. 15:4]; while, as I said, the poor man is mentioned by name by the tongue of God.”


St. Cyril of Alexandria

 Homily 111
  Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel


Jean Lhéritier: Surrexit pastor bonus


Jean Lhéritier's Paschal motet Surrexit Pastor Bonus (The Good Shepherd Has Arisen) would have been sung during Holy Mass on Easter Day in the Julian Chapel in the Vatican. It was composed sometime before 1536. The motet is conducted by David Skinner and sung by the choir Magdala.


Scheidt: Surrexit Christus hodie


Today is Christ arisen

Surrexit Christus hodie
Samuel Scheidt, composer


Matthew Curtis sings Whitacre's Alleluia


Matthew J. Curtis, all vocal parts
Eric Whitacre, composer


07 April 2015

Easter Tuesday: Gloria from Missa Paschalis


Kwartet Wokalny Tempus
Gloria from Gorczycki's 'Missa Paschalis'

06 April 2015

Von Hildebrand: An Excerpt from 'Transformation in Christ'


Action has both dignity and necessity in our lives

Action, too, possesses a high dignity of its own; it embodies a specific mode of representing God. That man is an effigy of God is also manifest in the fact that of all earthly creatures he alone is able to change and to shape his environment by a free and conscious choice of purposes; that the right has been conferred on him to perfect outward nature and to share in the creative rulership of God. This is implicit in all action as such; in a specifically high and pure form it is expressed in moral conduct on the one hand, in creative art on the other.

The status viae as a whole is characterized by a realization of things not yet real, a production of new things, a tension inherent in tasks awaiting their fulfillment and aims claiming to be accomplished. Moreover, for man in his fallen state, the process of sanctification - of a transformation in Christ - is dependent on a systematic effort towards a moral formation of self and is thus inseparable from a set of ends and means. Consequently, that process is by no means free from that tension towards a purpose to be realized which we have seen to be specifically opposed to contemplation. This aspect of purposefulness attaches both to our effort towards self-perfection and to the works of charity organically issuing from that peerless virtue. We are, in statu viae, not merely being but becoming, subject to the law of change; wherefore, even in our innermost selves we are tied to the world of action and the tension that goes with action.

Yet our primary attitude must be receptive

Nevertheless, in spite of the high metaphysical dignity of action, in spite of man's specific mission of activity in statu viae, in spite of the requisiteness of action, even for the attainment of our eternal goal, the contemplative attitude ranks higher than any transient activity, however noble.

The primary attitude of man, as a creature, is a receptive one. To let ourselves be apprehended by God, to lay our soul open to the influx of God's eternal Word, to expose ourselves to the sword of the love of Christ - therein lies what is most proper to our essence. Our transformation in Christ, again, means primarily our undergoing a process of transformation by Him; He is to engrave the seal of His countenance upon our soul. Our basic attitude remains a receptive one. Thus, too, it is our emptying ourselves before the face of God, our abandoning ourselves to His operation to be filled by His presence, the vacare et videre ("to rest and to see") that effects a regeneration of our souls, enabling us to realize the further elements of contemplation, the amare et laudare ("to love and to praise") in full completeness and depth. Unless we again and again drink of the water "springing up into life everlasting" (John 4:14), the source of true and valid life in us is bound to dry up.

Dietrich von Hildebrand


Easter Monday: Now the Green Blade Riseth


Love is come again!

'Now the Green Blade Riseth,' 
Set to the French carol tune Noel Nouvelet
Sung by the Choir of Ely Cathedral



If one clicks once or twice on the hymn below, a larger version should appear that can be printed or viewed more easily online.  The text is suitable for Easter and Paschaltide or at any time when the Emmaus pericope is read at Mass.

I kept Heber's original verse that was written before his death.  The other verses put together posthumously by his friends,  I have set aside.  Instead, I offer my own verses which I think better reflect Heber's own Eucharistic theology and which are also suitable for singing in a Roman Catholic or anglo-catholic parish.

05 April 2015

Nelson Eddy: Russian Easter Hymn


From an old recording of Nelson Eddy singing in Russian
A splendid hymn of the Resurrection of Jesus


Χριστός ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their recompense!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power unto ages of ages. Amen! 

Saint John Chrysostom
From an homily for Pascha


04 April 2015

Gesualdo: Holy Saturday Tenebrae


Carlo Gesualdo
Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday


"An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday"


Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him, Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise.

“I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth.

“For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God.

“The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”


03 April 2015

Good Friday: Miserere mei, Deus


Allegri: Miserere mei, Deus
The Choir of New College, Oxford

Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Good Friday: 'Omnes amici mei'


Gesualdo: 'Tenebrae of Good Friday; 
First Nocturne, Resp. 1 "Omnes Amici Mei"
Performed by the Taverner Consort and Choir. 
Directed by Andrew Parrott


Holy Thursday Homily of Pope Benedict XVI A.D. 2012

Basilica of St John Lateran Holy Thursday, 5 April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters! 

Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place. 

Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communi-cation, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. 

Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity. 

On the way, he sang with his Apostles Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his “exodus” to Jerusalem. 

Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus. 

The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed his way of acting. 

Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God “Abba”. The word means – as they add – “Father”. Yet it is not the usual form of the word “father”, but rather a children’s word – an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. 

It is the language of the one who is truly a “child”, the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with him. 

If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is his relationship with God. He is constantly in communion with God. Being with the Father is the core of his personality. Through Christ we know God truly. “No one has ever seen God”, says Saint John. The one “who is close to the Father’s heart … has made him known” (1:18). Now we know God as he truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. The evangelist Mark, who has preserved the memories of Saint Peter, relates that Jesus, after calling God “Abba”, went on to say: “Everything is possible for you. You can do all things” (cf. 14:36). The one who is Goodness is at the same time Power; he is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. 

Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he “threw himself on the ground” (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk 14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. 

In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by this posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail. 

Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which he will encounter in that chalice from which he must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as he sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon him. He also sees me, and he prays for me. This moment of Jesus’ mortal anguish is thus an essential part of the process of redemption. 

Consequently, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: he takes upon himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and he brings us before the Father. 

Lastly, we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mk 14:36). The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. 

Yet as the Son, he places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. 

This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. 

We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly “like God” – not by resisting God, eliminating him, or denying him. 

In his anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom. Let us ask the Lord to draw us into this “yes” to God’s will, and in this way to make us truly free. Amen.