On the night when He gave Himself…
Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed…so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)
Today the prophecy of the elder Simeon is fulfilled. Today is a day of shocking contradiction, of ghastly betrayal, and unexpected devotion. Today is the day the Word of God – the Word of the Cross – reveals itself as:
sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Simon Peter, who first proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16: 16), denies his master before the cock crows three times. Joseph of Arimathea, whose religious party of Pharisees is pitted in deadly opposition to Jesus, purchases a tomb for His broken body. The crowd mocked Him in disbelief, while the earth shook and the tombs were opened. (Matthew 27:51). Our Lord is even betrayed with a kiss!
A day of contradiction, indeed. For what is the human heart but a dwelling place of hidden passions and hidden longings that rarely escape the gateway of our lips but manifest themselves at the rare times of trial.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21).
There is a segment of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom that is worth special attention on this day. The prayer before the offering of bread and wine include these words:
on the night in which He was delivered up, or rather when He delivered Himself up for the life of the world
At first it seems as though St. John is correcting himself. But actually, he is rendering two impressions of the Passion of Our Lord. The first impression is that Christ was drowned in a sea of evil. But the second and more lasting impression is that He was fulfilling the will of His Father and His love for humankind. No matter how the state of the world might appear, He is always in charge.
Your actions are likely to depend on which way impresses you.