If you like the hymn Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?, this is a remarkable performance of it by The Annie Moses Band. I guess I’d call it something of a fusion of chamber music and pop – but it is very much worth hearing. In fact I may go hear them when they come to my area.
From Faith and Life: readings complied from ancient writers, here is an excerpt from Alexander of Alexandria, who was Patriarch of Alexandria in the fourth century, and mentor to Athanasius. (I mentioned this one last year.) Like him, Alexander was a strong proponent of the orthodox faith against Arius.
Behold what a return Israel made for benefits! They slew their Benefactor, rendering evil for good, affliction for joy, death for life. Him who had raised their dead, healed their lame, cleansed their lepers, opened the eyes of their blind, they nailed on the wood; they hung up on the tree Him who spread out the earth; they pierced with nails Him who laid the foundations of the world; they bound Him who absolved sinners; they gave Him vinegar and gall to taste, who offered the food and drink of life and righteousness; they marred His hands and feet, who had brought healing to theirs; they closed His eyes, who had opened theirs; they committed Him to the sepulchre, who raised up the dead, not only before His Passion, but even while hanging on the Cross. Creation, in amazement, said, “What is this new mystery? The Judge is judged, and is silent; the Invisible is beheld, and is not confounded; the Infinite is seized, and is not wrathful; the Immeasurable is circumscribed, and resists not; the Impassible suffers, and avenges not Himself; the Immortal dies, and complains not; the Celestial is buried, and calmly bears it.” For the Lord Incarnate was condemned, in order to bestow mercy on us; bound, in order to loose us; seized, in order to free us; He suffered, to heal our sufferings; He died, to restore life to us; He was buried, to raise us up again. One, in truth, was condemned, thousands were set free; One was buried, thousands rose again. This is the Mediator between God and men; this is the Resurrection and Salvation of all; this is the Guide of the erring, the Shepherd of rescued men, the Life of the dead, the Rider on the cherub-car, the Leader of Angels, and the King of kings; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
–St. Alexander of Alexandria
This Good Friday, let us remember that He suffered that we might be healed.
For Maundy Thursday, here is a reading from Faith and Life, from Irenaeus of Lyon:
He took the creature of bread, and gave thanks, saying, “This is My Body.” And likewise the Cup, which belongs to this our creation, He declared to be His Blood; and taught the new oblation of the New Testament, which the Church, receiving from the Apostles, offers throughout the whole world to God, to Him who bestows food on us, the first-fruits of His gifts, in the New Testament. Of which oblation Malachi, among the twelve prophets, thus gave intimation beforehand, “I have no pleasure in you, neither will I receive an offering at your hand, saith the Lord of hosts. For from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof My Name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure offering.” We offer unto Him His own, proclaiming in due accord the fellowship and union, and confessing the resurrection of the flesh and spirit . For as the bread from the earth, receiving the Divine invocation, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two things, an earthly and a heavenly, so also our bodies, receiving the Eucharist, are no longer perishable, having the hope of the Resurrection unto life everlasting.
–St. Irenaeus against Heresies, iv. 17, 18.
A very fitting reading for Maundy Thursday!
For Holy Week: “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” guitar and cello duet by Jack Marti and Elisabeth Montague
For Holy Week, this is a wonderful rendition of O Sacred Head Now Wounded by Jack Marti on guitar and Elisabeth Montague on cello.
Again from Faith and Life, here is a reading for Palm Sunday from the great Athanasius of Alexandria:
It was not to save Himself, but to save those who were condemned to death, that the immortal God came; and it was not for Himself, but for us, that He suffered: so that it was for this end that He took on Himself our meanness and our poverty, that He might bestow on us His own riches. For His Passion is our relief from suffering, and His Death is our immortality, and His tears are our joy, and His burial is our resurrection, and His baptism is our sanctification, and His stripes are our healing, and His chastisement is our peace, and His ignominy is our glory.
–St. Athanasius on the Incarnation and against the Arians, c. 5.
In His death we gain our new life.
Here is another reading for Palm Sunday from Faith and Life, this one from St. Basil:
Seek not to have thy brother for thy redeemer, but to have One who transcends thine own nature; neither a mere man, but the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who alone can offer to God a propitiatory Sacrifice for all of us, because “God appointed Him as a propitiation through faith in His Blood.” For what can a man find that is so valuable as that he can offer it for the redemption of his soul? But there was found one thing, equal in value to all men put together, which was given as the price of redemption of our soul,—even the holy and most precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He shed for us all; therefore were we “bought with a price.” “If then a brother redeems not, shall a man redeem?” And if a man cannot redeem us, He who redeemed us is not a man. Do not then, because of His having sojourned with us “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” suppose our Lord to be a mere man, ignoring the power of His Godhead. For He had no need to offer to God an atonement for Himself, nor to redeem His own soul, seeing that “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” No man, then, is able to redeem himself, unless He comes who turns again the people’s captivity, not with ransom-money nor with gifts, as is written in Isaiah, but by His own Blood. And whereas we were no brethren of His, but had become His enemies by our offences, He, not being a mere man, but God, after freely bestowing on us liberty, calls us even His own brethren. For, says He, “I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren.” He, then, who redeemed us, if you look at His (original) nature, is not our; brother, nor man; but if you look at that condescension to us which is the result of His grace, He calls us brethren, and stoops to Manhood,—He who will not give to God an atonement for Himself, but for the whole world. For He needs no propitiation: He is a Propitiation Himself. “For such a High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, then for the errors of the people.
–St. Basil, Homily on Psalm xlviii.
He needed no salvation for Himself, but died and rose again to save us. For us, there is no greater love than this.
From Faith and Life, here is another reading for Palm Sunday, this one being from Cyril of Jerusalem:
We were enemies of God by means of Sin; and God ordained that the sinner should die. Of two things, then, one must needs have happened; either that God should adhere to His word, and destroy all men, or that by giving scope to His benignity He should annul His sentence. But see the wisdom of God. He secured, at once, reality for His sentence, and active operation for His benignity. Christ “took on Himself our sins in His body, on the Tree, that we, being dead to sins” through His death, “should live unto righteousness.” He that died for our sakes was not of small account. He was not a literal sheep, He was not a mere man, He was not simply an Angel, but He was God Incarnate. The iniquity of the sinners was not so great as was the righteousness of Him that died for them. Our sins did not equal the amount of His righteousness, who laid down His life for us, who laid it down when He pleased, and when He pleased resumed it.
–St Cyril of Jerusalem, Lecture xiii. 53.
Because He is God, and infinitely holy, all our iniquity, though great indeed it is, cannot outweigh His righteousness.
From Faith and Life, here is a reading for Palm Sunday that comes from the “Epistle to Diognetus.” It is not known who wrote this, but the Epistle to Diognetus is an early example of Christian apologetics – along the lines of the writings of Justin Martyr.
When our unrighteousness was consummated, and full proof was given that punishment and death were to be looked for as its reward, and the time was come which God had preordained for the manifestation of His own loving-kindness and power, (for the love of God, which proceeds from His transcendent benignity, is peerless,) He did not hate us, nor repel us, nor did He remember evil, but showed His long-suffering, bore with us, Himself took upon Him our sins,—gave up, of Himself, His own Son as a ransom for us, the Holy for the lawless, the Innocent for the wicked, the Just for the unjust, the Incorruptible for the corruptible, the Immortal for the mortal. For what else but His Son’s Righteousness was able to cover our sins? Wherein was it possible for us, the lawless and impious, to be justified, save in the Son of God alone? O that sweet Substitution! O that unsearchable plan! O those unexpected benefits! That the transgression of many should be covered by one Righteous, and the Righteousness of One should justify many that were unrighteous.
–Anonymous Epistle to Diognetus, c. 9 (early in the second century).
It is remarkable how beautiful are the writings of so many from this time – and this one is as beautiful as those by Melito of Sardis. Truly, God was and is so merciful, that “the transgression of many should be covered by one Righteous, and the Righteousness of One should justify many that were unrighteous.”
For consideration in deepening one’s prayer life, I commend J.C. Ryle’s A Call to Prayer to you. As the Amazon notes say, it is a direct exhortation to pray fervently and without ceasing. Ryle writes: “I want the times we live in to be praying times. I want the Christians of our day to be praying Christians. I want the church to be a praying church. My heart’s desire and prayer in sending forth this tract is to promote a spirit of prayerfulness. I want those who never prayed yet, to arise and call upon God, and I want those who do pray, to see that they are not praying amiss.”
There are study questions at the end of each chapter that will help one think about these things, and I thank Chapel Library and Mount Zion Bible Institute for making this available.
The kind folks at Logos Bible Software have provided me with a review copy of their Anglican Software Package. I have now gotten it downloaded and installed on my Windows PC, along with a corresponding Android app on a tablet. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to take this package for a drive, and will give an in-depth review after I have tried it out. But so far I am impressed: the PC software and Android app work very well for Bible study, and I hope to gain understanding as to how the reference materials that come with the package integrate with the software and app. The range of reference books that comes with the package (the one they provided me is the “Anglican Silver” version) is astonishing – 514 different resources, ranging from the 14-volume New Testament Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and the 10-volume Popular Patristics Series to the works of Richard Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and J.C. Ryle. In addition, it has at least twelve different Bible versions plus Greek and Hebrew interlinear editions of a lot of those.
Please stay tuned, and I hope to have that in-depth review soon. It takes some time to go through a candy store!