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The inferno of Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday, April 15, 2019, overshadowed Holy Week services in Paris.

The following day, the Archbishop of Reims in Champagne country issued a statement on the fire:

He called Notre-Dame:

a symbol of the efforts for peace, beauty, hope and faith — even well beyond the Christian faith.

He deplored the loss of a house of worship for the many Parisians and visitors, particularly during the holiest week of the Christian year, beginning with the Chrism Mass on Wednesday and culminating in Easter Sunday.

Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass, the first major Mass after Palm Sunday, is the one where the oils used in anointing the baptised, confirmands, ordinands as well as the sick and dying are blessed for use during the following year.

Notre-Dame’s Chrism Mass was held at Saint-Sulpice. The Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit officiated.

KTOTV, a French-language Catholic channel, said that the alternative arrangements had been made as the fire raged on Monday evening. Saint-Sulpice’s pastor, the Revd Jean-Loup Lecroix, said that church staff and clergy had worked hard to make sure all preparations were in place:

The church was full:

The archbishop gave a moving and powerful homily:

He also called on Our Lady to pray for everyone:

The following observation of his, which I mentioned yesterday, resonated the most. This was the opening to his homily:

What is the difference between a lump of stone and a cathedral? The same difference between a lump of cells and a human being.

Both have a sacred dimension.

The archbishop also spoke of chrism — the blessed oil — in terms of the cathedral. Unction refers to the anointing with that oil. The Sacrament of the Sick and Dying was referred to for centuries as Extreme Unction.

From the full homily transcript (in French):

The other thing that unites the cathedral with a human being is the unction that both can receive to show a transcendence, a divine presence that confers a sacred characteristic upon them.

He referred to the cathedral as the house of God — an expression I have not heard in years, but I learned as a small child. This passage also explains the importance of the altar:

Our cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris received that unction. During its consecration, the altar received chrism. The altar is the sign of the mysterious presence of God, like that which Jacob constructed after his vision of the angels who descended from and rose to Heaven. He called that place Bethel, which means ‘house of God’. The altar, essentially, represents the presence of God. The chrismation that we do on the altar signifies the presence of Christ. This is why priests venerate it and kiss it, because it is upon it that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is performed, recalling what Christ did through His love for us on the Cross. It is this Easter journey that we celebrate at each Eucharist: the death and resurrection of Lord Jesus.

The crosses on its walls also received this sacred oil, which we are now about to consecrate. This cathedral is inhabited by a people. But it is inhabited not only by those who pray in or visit it. It is the vessel of a Presence. St Paul recalled it when he said to Christians, ‘You are the Temple of God’.

He went on to speak about rebuilding Notre-Dame and the responsibility to the Church of every Catholic who has ever received chrism:

We are going to rebuild the cathedral. The worldwide emotion, the extraordinary élan of generosity that the fire engendered, will allow us to raise it up once again. We can speak during this Easter season of certain resurrection. But we must also raise the Church back up. May all who have been baptised, who have received the unction of Christ — Priest, Prophet and King — rediscover the fervour of that beginning, receiving that extraordinary grace in becoming children of God. Those who have received this unction at Confirmation must also manifest this whole gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the same expression of God’s love. This gift must fill them with joy in order for them to build a civilisation of love.

A fitting homily for such a special Mass.

Good Friday

On Good Friday, April 19, the Notre-Dame congregation gathered for the procession of the Way of the Cross:

The archbishop presided over the procession, praying for those who ‘acted with courage: firefighters, police and politicians’.

The prayers were even more intense than usual on Good Friday:

Holy Saturday

On April 20, French sailors serving on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, currently on mission in the Indian Ocean, sent a special message via formation in the shape of Notre-Dame Cathedral:

Paris is their mother city, so it was a particularly poignant gesture.

Easter Sunday

Easter Masses were held at Saint-Eustache in Paris. The main Mass honoured the firefighters.

Questions, questions

This fire has raised many questions. The two main ones do not yet have a final answer.

Who and/or what started the fire?

How will Notre-Dame be rebuilt?

More to come.

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If you missed it, please check out my last post on Notre-Dame de Paris, which ends with this stunning tweet, quickly deleted:

A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.

What follows is also a bit strange. It is the best glimpse of the flash from the cathedral before the fire started.

Note the time stamps in the tweets below. Did we know there was a Mass on the evening of Monday, April 15, 2019, that had to be evacuated?

I will come back to the mystery of this fire in another post.

Today’s entry looks at what had already been removed from the cathedral during renovations and what had been saved from the fire.

Fearless fire brigade chaplain

The Paris firefighters did an incredible and exceptional job, but special credit goes to their chaplain, the Revd Jean-Marc Fournier, who dashed into the burning structure to save the Blessed Sacrament and the gold Crown of Thorns, believed to be the one our Lord wore. The journalist who posted this tweet works for the Catholic network KTOTV, based in Paris:

Breitbart has more on Fr Fournier and the cathedral’s sacred contents. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Fournier has been in dangerous situations before:

The newspaper reports he responded with the fire brigade to the 2015 Bataclan terror attacks in Paris, where Islamist extremists killed 90 with rifles and suicide vests at a rock concert in the city, where he was “quickly on the scene after the attack… he helped remove the wounded from the hall and prayed with the bodies of the victims.”

The priest also served as a chaplain to the French army and survived an ambush in Afghanistan where ten French soldiers were killed.

Television network Sky News reports the remarks of one member of the Paris emergency services who said of the chaplain: “Father Fournier is an absolute hero.

He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”

In the following short video, Fr Fournier describes what he calls ‘the fire of the century’, extinguished by 600 firefighters. He also praised the fire chief and his ‘extraordinary intuition’ to save as much of the structure and its contents as possible.

Fournier said that his first thought on arrival was to rescue the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns.

He’s a good speaker, very well prepared. Francophones will appreciate this:

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Paris Philippe Marsset said that if there were miracles during the previous night, then our Lord surely worked through the Paris fire brigade:

One can understand why they were the guests of honour at the Easter Mass held at Saint-Eustache for Notre-Dame’s congregation. Archbishop Aupetit praised them for their courage and their ‘human genius which renders honour to God’s love’ for mankind:

Items already removed for renovation

A number of items had already been removed and stored for safekeeping during the cathedral’s renovation:

The 16 copper statues of the apostles and evangelists that adorned the roof of Notre-Dame made headlines last week as they were removed by crane for restoration work, intended to go two at a time over the course of the coming years. They now stand on palettes in a warehouse, having been saved from the fire which the restoration work, ironically, seems to have started.

Breitbart‘s article has photos of the statues’ removal. They were around the base of the spire, which burnt and broke off the cathedral. The statues will be restored in Perigueux, in southwest France. They will be returned once the new spire is completed, thought to be in 2022.

Items saved from the fire

Fr Fournier saved the Blessed Sacrament — consecrated hosts — and the Crown of Thorns from the fire:

Among the relics saved in the effort was Notre-Dame’s most famous and revered and holy relic, the gold-encrusted Crown of Thorns, believed to be the wreath of thorns that was placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion.

A close up of the Crown of Thorns can be seen in another Breitbart article.

Elaborate candelabra and works of art were rescued and sent to City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) for safekeeping in St John’s Hall. St Louis’s tunic is also there. Paris’s City Hall is immense, so it is likely that the items can remain there for a long period of time.

The first tweet I saw on February 16 discussed the rooster from the top of the spire, with historic relics inside, including one of the Thorns:

As this historian said that same day, every time something else was rescued, it seemed like a miracle:

The 700-year-old statue of Our Lady was rescued. The cathedral’s rector said he saw it at midnight. He was grateful and expressed his gratitude that ‘the Mother of Jesus protected’ the cathedral built in her honour:

Tweets responding to the original one below indicate it might go to the Louvre temporarily:

This footage shows that, although there is ash all over the floor, the cabinets with the votive candles are unharmed — as is the magnificent rose window in the background:

Amazingly, all of the cathedral’s resident honeybees, living among three hives, survived:

Good News Network‘s article has an aerial photo of the hives’ location and explains:

For the last six years, there have been a trio of beehives nestled on top of the cathedral’s roof. The hives were just a few honeybee colonies that were installed across the city as a means of of boosting dwindling pollinator populations in Europe.

The hives have been managed by Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant since 2013; so when the Parisian cathedral caught fire last week, he anxiously awaited news of their condition …

Once specialists were finally able to check up on the honeybees, Geant was elated to hear that they were alive and well.

“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” Geant told The Associated Press. “Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep.”

That being said, the bees are particularly lucky because the hives reside only 100 feet under where the roof was burning. If their hives had been heated to 63 degrees Celsius (145.4 Fahrenheit), the hive wax would have melted and the bees would have perished.

“I wouldn’t call it a miracle, but I’m very, very happy,” Geant added.

Church bells tolled in solidarity

Church bells tolled in solidarity with the losses that Notre-Dame de Paris suffered in the fire.

NDTV reported that, in England, bells rang on Tuesday of Holy Week and again on Maundy Thursday:

Church bells will toll across England on Thursday in “solidarity” with France and its people as they mourn the Notre-Dame blaze, Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The bells of Westminster Abbey, the church opposite parliament where kings and queens have been crowned since 1066, will be rung on Tuesday at 1643 GMT – the time that Monday’s fire broke out, May said.

“Notre-Dame is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world – a symbol of France and the French people, and cherished across the globe,” Ms May said in a statement.

“The images of destruction we saw last night were truly heart-rending.”

Bells will then be rung across the country on Maundy Thursday, three days before Easter.

Mrs May paid tribute to:

the “swift and heroic action of the first responders, France has huge professionalism in dealing with emergencies of this kind”.

She also offered to help with restoration:

“When it comes to the task of rebuilding, French craftsmen and women are among the finest in the world,” said the British leader.

We stand ready to offer any UK experience and expertise that could be helpful in the work that lies ahead to restore this magnificent cathedral.”

On Wednesday of Holy Week, all French cathedrals rang their bells in solidarity with Notre-Dame de Paris. I would encourage those who love the Church and architecture honouring the glory of God to watch this brief video of France’s magnificent cathedrals:

Bell ringing also took place in other countries, such as Poland.

In closing this post, I would like to point out the following for the many who think the Church is people alone, without houses of worship. The Archbishop of Paris had this to say in his homily during the Chrism Mass on Wednesday of Holy Week:

What is the difference between a lump of stone and a cathedral? The same difference between a lump of cells and a human being.

Both have a sacred dimension.

AMEN!

Tomorrow’s post will look at the fire’s influence on Holy Week services in Paris.

Continuing this series, for those of us who have seen it, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris seems immortal, protected by divine providence.

This is what we remember:

This structure largely remained the same over the centuries. This was before the spire was added:

This photograph is nearly a century old. Note the spire:

Around ten years later, a new fire ladder — the world’s tallest at the time — was tested at Notre-Dame:

So, when tragedy struck on the Monday of Holy Week — April 15, 2019 — the world was stunned, especially Parisians returning home from work:

Later that evening, the inferno continued:

Nine hours after the blaze started, this is what was left:

The following image will become iconic. It made one magazine cover in Britain:

French journalist François Picard tweeted his thoughts before hosting a special programme on France24 about the inferno:

Catholics presented a parochial perspective:

Fair enough, however, millions of Protestants — myself included — were equally struck by my many visits to Notre-Dame and this almost untameable fire.

President Trump spoke well for the world at large in expressing what Notre-Dame means:

That said, structural issues appeared in the cathedral some years ago:

Despite that, in 2016, a new organ console was installed:

The tweet about the structural issues points to a 2017 article in Time, updated after the fire: ‘Notre Dame Cathedral Is Crumbling. Who Will Help Save It?’

Journalist Vivienne Walt, the author, sounded the alarm (emphases mine):

Notre Dame, which looms over the capital from an island in the center of the city, is a constant reminder of Paris’ history. It has seen more than its share of epic dramas, including the French Revolution and two world wars. But now there is another challenge. Some 854 years after construction began, one of Europe’s most visited sites, with about 12 million tourists a year, is in dire need of repairs. Centuries of weather have worn away at the stone. The fumes from decades of gridlock have only worsened the damage. “Pollution is the biggest culprit,” says Philippe Villeneuve, architect in chief of historic monuments in France. “We need to replace the ruined stones. We need to replace the joints with traditional materials. This is going to be extensive.”

As always, it was a question of money:

Under France’s strict secular laws, the government owns the cathedral, and the Catholic archdiocese of Paris uses it permanently for free. The priests for years believed the government should pay for repairs, since it owned the building. But under the terms of the government’s agreement, the archdiocese is responsible for Notre Dame’s upkeep, with the Ministry of Culture giving it about €2 million ($2.28 million) a year for that purpose. Staff say that money covers only basic repairs, far short of what is needed. Without a serious injection of cash, some believe, the building will not be safe for visitors in the future. Now the archdiocese is seeking help to save Notre Dame from yielding to the ravages of time.

She gives us a brief history of the cathedral:

The architects of Notre Dame knew all too well about lengthy building work; it took more than a century to build the cathedral, beginning in 1163. It was periodically vandalized over the turbulent centuries that followed. Rioting Huguenots damaged parts of the building they believed to be idolatrous in the mid–16th century. During the French Revolution, mobs of people carted off or smashed some of its paintings and statues. The hated royalty suffered the brunt of the carnage, with crowds destroying 28 statues of monarchs from the building’s Gallery of Kings. After that, Notre Dame languished in neglect.

Then, in 1831, along came Victor Hugo and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with its disfigured protagonist Quasimodo:

In it, France’s beloved writer raised alarm about the building’s decay, describing “mutilations, amputations, dislocations of the joints.” “Beside each wrinkle on the face of this old queen of our cathedrals,” he wrote, “you will find a scar.”

But for Notre Dame, Hugo’s book sparked fresh problems. The best seller inspired a restoration in 1844, which used low-quality stone and even cement, since France at the time could not produce the quantities of high-grade material that the job required.

Today, that restoration work is crumbling, as Vivienne Walt saw for herself:

Chunks of limestone lay on the ground, having fallen from the upper part of the chevet, or the eastern end of the Gothic church. One small piece had a clean slice down one side, showing how recently it had fallen. Two sections of a wall were missing, propped up with wood. And the features of Notre Dame’s famous gargoyles looked as worn away as the face of Voldemort. “They are like ice cream in the sun, melting,” says Michel Picaud, head of the nonprofit Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, looking up at them.

Whilst the mediaeval structure of the main part of the cathedral is sound, Andrew Tallon, an expert on Gothic architecture at Vassar College, told Walt:

The flying buttresses, if they are not in place, the choir could come down,” he says. “The more you wait, the more you need to take down and replace.”

Walt explains no one knew about this until a few years ago. Until then, the French government put large parts of the cathedral off limits. These areas were locked off. The government eventually allowed a total of 200 old keys to be standardised, which allowed Notre Dame caretakers to access previously blocked off spaces. André Finot, a spokesman for Notre Dame, told Walt:

We were shocked when we got up there.

The government purchased new bells in 2012 for Notre-Dame’s 850th anniversary. In 2017, the cathedral received an extra €6 million ($6.84 million) for restoration of the 19th century spire. Water damage to the spire could adversely affect the ancient oak roof, which has been there for over eight centuries.

When Walt wrote her article in 2017, the government was not terribly interested:

To the government, the cathedral is just one of many old buildings in need of care. “France has thousands of monuments,” says the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media. Among them, Notre Dame is not necessarily the most pressing case. “It will not fall down,” she says.

Notre-Dame staff were less relaxed about the state of the building:

there is plenty of alarm in the church. Finally accepting that the government would not pay to restore the cathedral, the archdiocese launched Friends of Notre Dame in October to appeal for help. It hopes to raise €100 million ($114 million) in the next five to 10 years. “There is no part of the building untouched by the irreparable loss of sculptural and decorative elements, let alone the alarming deterioration of structural elements,” the organization says on its website. The cathedral, it says, “is in desperate need of attention.”

Ironically, given the fire:

By the time serious renovation work begins–perhaps sometime before the end of this decade–the damage could be worse than it is today.

Indeed. Little did anyone know what would happen at the beginning of Holy Week 2019.

Fortunately, huge donations amounting to €500m arrived swiftly. The Arnault family donated while the inferno raged:

On the morning of April 16:

Pardon the repeat photos, but the accompanying comments are moving:

What a bittersweet memory of Holy Week 2019.

I will have more on Notre-Dame next week.

My prayers go to the victims, friends and families in the horrific attacks that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter, April 21, 2019.

In my archive of copious bookmarks, I ran across another attack on Sri Lankan churches at Easter — in 2009.

The article from ten years ago states that churches were already a frequent target around Easter in the island nation.

2009 attacks

There used to be a news service called Compass Direct, which reported on Christians being persecuted for their faith. Archives can be found on Eurasia Review and the Christian Post.

Thanks to Free Republic, I still have a Compass Direct article from 2009 concerning Easter weekend in Sri Lanka. At the time, Buddhist extremists were targeting Methodist churches. Emphases mine below:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 16 (Compass Direct News) – Buddhist mobs attacked several churches in Sri Lanka last week, threatening to kill a pastor in the southern province of Hambanthota and ransacking a 150-year-old Methodist church building in the capital.

On April 8, four Buddhist extremists approached the home of pastor Pradeep Kumara in Weeraketiya, Hambanthota district, calling for him to come out and threatening to kill him. The pastor said his wife, at home alone with their two children, phoned him immediately but by the time he returned, the men had left.

Half an hour later, Kumar said, the leader of the group phoned him and again threatened to kill him if he did not leave the village by the following morning. Later that night the group leader returned to the house and ordered the pastor to come out, shouting, “I didn’t bring my gun tonight because if I had it with me, I would use it!”

“My children were frightened,” Kumara said. “I tried to reason with him to go away, but he continued to bang on the door and threaten us.”

Police soon arrived on the scene and arrested the instigator but released him the following day.

Subsequently the attacker gathered Buddhist monks and other villagers together and asked them to sign a petition against the church, Kumar said. Protestors then warned the pastor’s landlord that they would destroy the house if he did not evict the pastor’s family by the end of the month.

Fearing violence, Kumara said he canceled Good Friday and Easter Sunday services and evacuated his children to a safer location.

The attack on the 150-year-old Pepiliyana Methodist Church in Colombo took place on Palm Sunday that year — April 5. That day, the congregation held a Passiontide procession:

The gang entered through the back door and windows of the building late that night; witnesses said they saw them load goods into a white van parked outside the church early the next morning.

“They removed everything, including valuable musical instruments, a computer, Bibles, hymn books and all the church records,” said the Rev. Surangika Fernando.

The church had no known enemies and enjoyed a good relationship with other villagers, Rev. Fernando said, adding that the break-in appeared to be more than a simple robbery.

“My desk was completely cleaned out,” he said. “They took important documents with details of parishioners such as baptism and marriage records, which are of no value to thieves. They even took what was in my wastepaper basket.”

Local police agreed that robbery was an unlikely motive and that opponents from outside the area were the most likely culprits. Investigations were continuing at press time.

A third attack took place in Vakarai, eastern Batticaloa district. Anti-Christian mobs intimidated worshippers attending Holy Week services. There was no mention of the church’s denomination, but the pastor made a statement:

“What can we do?” pastor Kanagalingam Muraleetharan told Compass. “The authorities and the police say we have the right to worship, but the reality is that people are threatened.”

The article says that anti-Christian attacks in Sri Lanka began a few years before:

many of them instigated by Buddhist monks who decry the growth of Christianity in the country.

In 2009, legislation designed to restrict ‘forcible’ religious conversion was being discussed in the Sri Lankan Parliament:

Human rights organizations and Christian groups have criticized the vague terminology of the legislation that, if passed, may invite misapplication against religious activity.

The article concluded:

According to the most recent government census, Protestant Christians number less than 1 percent of the total population in Sri Lanka, but they remain the primary target of religiously motivated violence and intimidation.

The bill to restrict ‘forcible’ religious conversion still has not become legislation, at least as of 2018. Christian groups made their objections known in 2009. You can read more about various religious cases that have come before Sri Lankan courts in recent years.

2019 attacks

Ten years later, the 2019 Easter attacks were on Catholic churches. Hotels hosting Easter breakfasts were also targeted.

The Christian Post had two harrowing reports.

The first is an overview, ‘Explosions in Sri Lanka target churches, at least 185 dead on Easter Sunday’:

Three churches were attacked in Sri Lanka, with explosions killing dozens of Christians as they celebrated Easter Sunday morning.

Three hotels — Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo — that were holding Easter breakfast buffets were also targeted in the attacks. Two additional explosions were confirmed by media in Dehiwela and Dematagoda areas.

Police and hospital sources say at least 185 people, including children, have been killed and 469 have been injured in the attacks.

At least 81 people are reported to have died at St. Sebastian’s church in Negombo. St. Sebastian’s posted photos of the carnage to its Facebook page showing distressed and injured worshipers and extensive damage to the building. Officials from the church reported that there were 500 people attending Mass at the time of the explosion.

Local media reports say at least 27 people died at Zion Church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province; 24 people were killed at St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade.

The first of the explosions was reported to have occurred around 8:30 a.m.

The article says that Catholic churches in and around the capital, Colombo, cancelled all Easter services that evening. All state schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe:

condemned the violence and has ordered the military and police to launch an urgent investigation into the attacks.

“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he said in a tweet. “Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

As of Easter Sunday evening:

No group has come forward yet to claim responsibility. Police found a suspicious package in Colombo as well as explosive materials in a house near the Dematagoda blast site.

The second article concerns what happened at Zion Church in Batticaloa, Eastern Province: ‘Minutes after Sunday School class said they would die for Christ, half killed in Sri Lankan bomb blast’.

This must have been unimaginably horrifying:

“Today was an Easter Sunday school at the church and we asked the children how many of you willing to die for Christ? Everyone raised their hands. Minutes later, they came down to the main service and the blast happened. Half of the children died on the spot,” Caroline Mahendran, a Sunday School teacher at the church said according to Israeli public figure Hananya Naftali.

One of the priests had an encounter with a suicide bomber, who was not Buddhist:

Fr. Kumaran, a pastor at Zion Church, told Times of India that he witnessed the death of many of the children shortly after arguing with the suicide bombing suspect he did not recognize.

It was about 8:30 a.m., Kumaran said, when he saw the suicide bombing suspect carrying a bag at the steps of the church already filled with worshipers.

“I asked him who he was and his name. He said he was a Muslim and wanted to visit the church,” Kumaran said.

Kumaran said he was ushered away from the encounter by other priests because it was getting late for Mass. As he walked toward the podium he heard an explosion. When he turned around, the blood of his congregants, including many from the children’s Sunday School class, was splattered on the church walls.

Twenty-eight people were killed, among them 12 children. Two are critical,” a distressed Kumaran told the publication.

A taxi driver lost his only child, a son, who had been part of Sunday School class that morning. The driver’s elder sister also died in the blast. His two other sisters and a brother-in-law were in critical condition as of Monday.

The driver also lost his friend in the explosion:

Ramesh, who had also questioned the suicide bombing suspect and “pushed the man outside the church door,” also died too as the man blew himself up shortly after that.

One priest just missed being killed. This was one time when being late had an advantage:

Fr. Kanapathipillai Deivendiran, who was scheduled to deliver the Easter Day message at Zion Church on Sunday, told The Hindu had he not been running late, he may have been killed too.

“I went a little after 9 a.m. I was a few minutes late or you will not be speaking to me now,” he said. “I didn’t know that there had been a blast a few minutes before that, I just walked into the premises. As I entered, I was shaken by the sight — walls had collapsed completely, there were bodies all over the floor,” he said.

The article gave additional statistics:

the death toll from the bomb attacks on several churches and luxury hotels in the island nation, where Christians make up less than 10 percent of the 20 million population, rose to nearly 300 Monday with at least 500 wounded.

By Monday, April 22, news emerged that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka’s intelligence services had received a warning ten days beforehand. They had not taken any action — and they had not informed him. From The Epoch Times:

Wickremesinghe told reporters on April 21 that the warning to Sri Lanka’s police hadn’t been acted upon and that the information hadn’t been passed to him.

The following tweet is from an MP and government minister:

The responses to his tweet were scathing, including these:

The Epoch Times says the alert reads, in part:

A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo.

The NTJ is a radical Islamic group in Sri Lanka.

Out of 24 persons arrested, 13 suspects were in custody when The Epoch Times filed their report:

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Sri Lanka’s defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, identified the culprits as religious extremists. He said that although they have been identified, their names won’t be released to the public for security reasons.

Wijewardene confirmed that suicide bombers have been found to be responsible for most of the bombings on April 21, and that a single group is believed to be responsible for the coordinated explosions that all went off around 9 a.m. local time.

Interestingly enough, this was:

the first major attack in the country since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war between the Marxist Tamil Tigers organization and the government in 2009.

The Tamil Tigers were ‘innovators’ in suicide bombs.

Someone from St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of the capital, recalled the horrors of the country’s civil war:

We are all in shock. We don’t want the country to go back to that dark past where we had to live in fear of suicide blasts all the time.

Although Sri Lankans were the majority population who were victims, there were also tourists from all over the world: Europe, the United States, Turkey and China.

A reformist imam, who divides his time between Washington DC and Australia, tweeted:

On Tuesday, the imam disagreed with Sri Lankan findings:

This news, which also emerged on Tuesday, did not escape his notice:

He responded:

He posted something that got him in hot water with Zuckerberg’s crew:

This is the imam’s view of suicide bombing:

He also praised the response from the United States and criticised CNN:

He isn’t too keen on Democrats, either:

He also had a go at Al Jazeera:

He also tells us this about Sri Lanka. Interesting:

In closing, he offers good advice:

I was going to go into the ‘Easter worshippers’ controversy, but the reformist imam seemed more worthwhile.

More on Notre-Dame starting tomorrow.

This eight-minute video from Michael Knowles of The Daily Wire is an excellent exploration of the future reconstruction of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Holy Week and Jesus:

For such a young man, Knowles posits observations well beyond his years.

His video is based around Rolling Stone‘s article from Holy Week, after the Notre-Dame fire, saying that the cathedral should be reconstructed to move away from ‘a deeply flawed institution’ — the Catholic Church.

Knowles says that it’s not only the Catholic Church that has flaws. Every Christian denomination has them, because of mankind’s own flaws.

He says that, following on logically from Rolling Stone‘s assertion, the further we pull away from our traditional institutions — even secular ones — the more our society becomes ‘lonely’ and ‘isolated’. He says that we have seen this happen in Western countries over the past few decades to the point that even our basic structure of the family unit is fracturing.

Knowles goes on to quote Edmund Burke, who said, essentially, that liberating oneself from everything constricting results in a life without meaning.

Knowles ends by saying there is something to be said for ‘an exalted freedom’, which actually requires ‘some subservience’ and ‘obedience’. He says this is best exemplified in Jesus, in the last days before His death and resurrection — the events we remember during Holy Week and Easter.

Knowles says that Jesus did not come to us as a ‘fully liberated hippie guy’ but as a ‘servant’. He submitted His will to that of His Father for the benefit of mankind.

Knowles should pursue the ministry. He makes much more sense than most present-day clerics.

More on Notre-Dame to follow this week.

Below are readings for daytime services on Holy Saturday, applicable to all three years of the Lectionary.

Emphases below are mine.

Before getting to the readings, Holy Saturday sees the end of Lent in the evening and is very much food related, especially in anticipation of Easter. These posts discuss various Easter traditions:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Easter food explored — part 1 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Easter food explored — part 2 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Holy Saturday: preparing for an Easter feast (2017)

For those wondering why we have chocolate bunnies and eggs for Easter, the next post explains these ancient symbols of life. Centuries-old churches even have hares carved on them:

Easter, the egg and the hare (one of the fullest accounts about Easter symbolism)

Mary Magdalene and the legend of the egg (Christian — not pagan!)

This post has more about Holy Saturday in general:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Now on to the readings.

First reading

There are two choices for the first reading.

Option One

This passage from Job concerns intimations of mortality and what happens after death.

Job 14:1-14

14:1 “A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble,

14:2 comes up like a flower and withers, flees like a shadow and does not last.

14:3 Do you fix your eyes on such a one? Do you bring me into judgment with you?

14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one can.

14:5 Since their days are determined, and the number of their months is known to you, and you have appointed the bounds that they cannot pass,

14:6 look away from them, and desist, that they may enjoy, like laborers, their days.

14:7 “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.

14:8 Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground,

14:9 yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.

14:10 But mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they?

14:11 As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up,

14:12 so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.

14:13 Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!

14:14 If mortals die, will they live again? All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come.

Option Two

This passage from Lamentations is more hopeful than the one from Job.

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24

3:1 I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath;

3:2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light;

3:3 against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.

3:4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones;

3:5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation;

3:6 he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago.

3:7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me;

3:8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer;

3:9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.

3:19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!

3:20 My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.

3:21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

3:22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;

3:23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

3:24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm

Here David proclaims his confident faith in God.

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16

31:1 In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.

31:2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

31:3 You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,

31:4 take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.

31:15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

31:16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

Epistle

Peter exhorts his flock to discard the world and embrace a life of righteousness, following our Lord’s example.

1 Peter 4:1-8

4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),

4:2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

4:3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.

4:4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.

4:5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

4:7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.

4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

Gospel

There are also two choices of Gospel reading.

Option One

This passage from Matthew explains that the Jews encouraged the Romans to seal up Jesus’s tomb, lest the disciples steal His body. This notion that His body was stolen is still a popular one among unbelievers today.

Matthew 27:57-66

27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

27:59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

27:64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

27:65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Option Two

These verses were read on Good Friday.

John 19:38-42

19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

19:39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

19:40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

19:41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

19:42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The mood of all of these readings is sombre, reflecting what Jesus’s friends and disciples must have felt, not understanding that He would rise from the dead.

Easter Vigil readings — heard in the evening — are jubilant, recalling God’s faithfulness to His people throughout biblical history.

Below are readings for Good Friday from the three-year Lectionary.

Emphases mine below.

Before proceeding to the reading, these posts discuss various aspects of our Lord’s horrifying and humiliating death on the Cross:

Barabbas: an inspiration for liberation theology?

Meditations on the Cross

Reflections on the Crucifixion

Good Friday: in whom can we trust? (John 18:12-27)

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the false views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the true views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the comfort

Good Friday: the horror of the Crucifixion (John MacArthur)

First reading

This prophecy is about Christ as Messiah and Redeemer. Matthew Henry’s commentary calls it the ‘gospel of the evangelist Isaiah’.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

52:13 See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.

52:14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him–so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals-

52:15 so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

53:1 Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

53:3 He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

53:4 Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.

53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

53:8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.

53:9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.

53:11 Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

53:12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Psalm

David speaks largely of himself in this Psalm, yet perfectly prophesies his descendant, Christ Jesus.

Psalm 22

22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

22:2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

22:4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

22:5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

22:6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.

22:7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

22:8 “Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver– let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

22:9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.

22:10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

22:11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

22:12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

22:13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

22:15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

22:16 For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;

22:17 I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me;

22:18 they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.

22:19 But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!

22:20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!

22:21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

22:22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

22:24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

22:25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

22:26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever!

22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

22:28 For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.

22:29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.

22:30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,

22:31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

Epistle — first selection

There is a choice of two Epistles, both of which are from Hebrews. This is the first selection, which speaks of God’s forgiveness of our sins through the one and sufficient sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross.

Hebrews 10:16-25

10:16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,”

10:17 he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

10:18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

10:19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,

10:20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),

10:21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

10:22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

10:23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

10:24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,

10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Epistle — second selection

The second selection from Hebrews focusses on a common theme running through that particular book: Christ as High Priest, the source of our salvation.

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

4:14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.

4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

4:16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

5:8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;

5:9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,

Gospel

This passage from John recounts Jesus’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter’s denial of Him, His crucifixion and burial. (St Luke’s account was the Gospel reading on Palm Sunday.) John speaks of himself in John 19:26-27 and John 19:35. It is less clear who the other disciple of John 18:15-16 is.

John 18:1-19:42

18:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.

18:2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples.

18:3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

18:4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”

18:5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.

18:6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.

18:7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

18:8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”

18:9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.”

18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.

18:11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

18:12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.

18:13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.

18:14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

18:15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest,

18:16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.

18:17 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

18:18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

18:19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching.

18:20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.

18:21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

18:22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

18:23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

18:24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

18:25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”

18:26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”

18:27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

18:28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.

18:29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”

18:30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”

18:31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”

18:32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

18:34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

18:38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.

18:39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”

18:40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

19:2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe.

19:3 They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.

19:4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.”

19:5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

19:6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”

19:7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

19:8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever.

19:9 He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

19:10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”

19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

19:12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

19:13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha.

19:14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!”

19:15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”

19:16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;

19:17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

19:18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

19:19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

19:20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.

19:21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'”

19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

19:23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.

19:24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

19:25 And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

19:26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”

19:27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

19:28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”

19:29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

19:30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

19:31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.

19:32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.

19:33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

19:34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

19:35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.)

19:36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”

19:37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

19:39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

19:40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

19:41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

19:42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The Gospel reading makes the passage from Isaiah and the Psalm truly resonate. May we also remember the verses from Hebrews and give solemn thanks this Good Friday for our loving High Priest who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

What follows are readings for Thursday of Holy Week, also called Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday.

Maundy comes from the Middle English maunde (1300 AD) and the Old French mandé, both of which have their roots in the Latin word mandatum — mandate or commandment, referring to John 13:34 (see today’s Gospel), when Jesus said:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

John’s Gospel has five chapters about the Last Supper. Here are several posts about some of that content:

‘One of you will betray Me’ (John 13)

Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper: Jesus’s words of comfort (John 14, alludes to the Holy Trinity)

John 17 — the High Priestly Prayer: parts 1, 2 and 3

Not all Jews celebrated Passover on the same day:

Why some Jews celebrated Passover on Thursday and others on Friday (here and here)

John MacArthur on Passover as celebrated at the Last Supper

Another event on this particular day was Jesus’s foretelling Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed on Friday morning:

Jesus foretells Peter’s denial (Mark 14:26-31)

The evening of Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the Triduum — the three most important days in the Church calendar, which end on the night of Easter Sunday:

What is the Triduum?

Now on to the readings. Emphases mine below.

First reading

This is the story of Passover, commemorated throughout Jewish history by divine commandment (verse 14). It includes the solemn feast which Jesus and the Twelve took part in at the Last Supper.

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14

12:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

12:2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.

12:3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household.

12:4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.

12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

12:6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight.

12:7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.

12:8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

12:9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs.

12:10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

12:11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.

12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

12:13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

12:14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Psalm

The Psalm is one of joyful thanksgiving to the Lord for all His goodness. May we be especially thankful for sending His Son to die for our sins and bring us to everlasting life.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

116:2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

116:12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

116:14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.

116:16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.

116:17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.

116:18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

116:19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Epistle

Paul wrote of the events of the Last Supper, as our Lord related them to him. These verses, beginning with the second half of verse 23, are part of the traditional Anglican prayer of consecration before Holy Communion.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,

11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

11:25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Gospel

The washing of the feet took place before the events in Paul’s Epistle. Once again, Jesus said He was glorified (see Gospels for Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week).

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

13:1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

13:2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper

13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,

13:4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.

13:5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

13:7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

13:8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

13:9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

13:10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.”

13:11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

13:12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?

13:13 You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am.

13:14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

13:15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

13:16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.

13:17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

13:31b When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

13:33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This commandment to love also includes service, i.e. the washing of the feet. These days, many churches take it literally and have their own footwashing rites during the Holy Thursday evening Mass or service.

However, when I was growing up, such rites were few and far between in the churches I attended.

The key takeaway was ‘example’ (verse 15).

As such, the British monarch hands out Maundy money in an annual tradition that dates back centuries. The number of recipients of these small purses of money has depended on the age of the monarch since the 15th century. In 2019, as the Queen is 93, there will be 93 recipients of Maundy money at a special service held in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on Thursday.

What follows are the readings for Wednesday of Holy Week, referred to by some traditionalists as Spy Wednesday, because spies at the temple wanted to know where Jesus went every day after He finished preaching in order to bring Him to trial.

This is where Judas steps into the picture, and the betrayal plot begins. These posts explain more about Spy Wednesday and Judas:

Judas offers his services

More on Spy Wednesday

More on Judas

Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday (2017, Henry and MacArthur on Judas)

Now on to the readings. Emphases below mine.

First reading

In this passage, Isaiah refers to himself, but the verses apply equally to Christ’s obedience to God the Father, His source of help when enduring suffering.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

50:5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.

50:6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

50:7 The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

50:8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.

50:9a It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Psalm

This Psalm is nearly identical to Psalm 40, and it is thought that David used it as a remembrance prayer to cover other prayers and petitions made to the Lord. These first five verses are a request for help against one’s enemies.

Psalm 70

70:1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me!

70:2 Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me.

70:3 Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame.

70:4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

70:5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!

Epistle

The author of Hebrews encourages the faithful to adopt Christ’s patient endurance of hostility and suffering. Matthew Henry has an excellent commentary on this chapter.

Hebrews 12:1-3

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

12:3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

Gospel

John’s account of Jesus’s betrayal by Judas includes His words about being glorified, as did yesterday’s reading from John 12. Incidentally, John refers to himself in verses 23-25.

John 13:21-32

13:21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.

13:23 One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him;

13:24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.

13:25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

13:27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

13:28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.

13:29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor.

13:30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

One cannot equivocate about Judas. I have read some surprising sermons from a few of today’s modern clergymen who try to rationalise Judas’s behaviour and give him a pass. It is a mystery how such men can consider themselves in the Lord’s service.

Below are the readings for Tuesday of Holy Week, which apply to all three Lectionary years.

Emphases below mine.

Readers might also be interested in the following posts about the days immediately before the Crucifixion:

Contemplating the withered fig tree

The High Priests plot against Jesus

First reading

Isaiah prophesies the Messiah; the Lord wanted Jesus to bring the tribe of Jacob back to Him but, in a greater sense, be a light unto the whole world.

Isaiah 49:1-7

49:1 Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.

49:2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.

49:3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

49:4 But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.”

49:5 And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength-

49:6 he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

49:7 Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Psalm

It is thought that David penned this psalm during a time of affliction in his household, but also intended it for believers to use any time they were troubled, trusting that the Lord will deliver us from suffering and one’s enemies.

Psalm 71:1-14

71:1 In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.

71:2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.

71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

71:4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.

71:5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.

71:6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

71:7 I have been like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.

71:8 My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long.

71:9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.

71:10 For my enemies speak concerning me, and those who watch for my life consult together.

71:11 They say, “Pursue and seize that person whom God has forsaken, for there is no one to deliver.”

71:12 O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!

71:13 Let my accusers be put to shame and consumed; let those who seek to hurt me be covered with scorn and disgrace.

71:14 But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more.

Epistle

In this famous passage, Paul tells the Corinthians that the Cross is a stumbling block to those who seek signs and foolishness for those looking for wisdom. This post, with commentary from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur, explains more:

Epistle for Tuesday of Holy Week — 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,

1:23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1:25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1:26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,

1:29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.

1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

1:31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Gospel

Greeks — whether Hellenist Jews or Gentiles — come in search of Jesus. Jesus says that His followers must serve Him. God then glorifies Him, for the crowd’s benefit. He also reflects upon His death to come and urges the crowd to walk with the light — Himself — while they still have it, less they stumble into the darkness.

John 12:20-36

12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.

12:21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

12:22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

12:23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

12:25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

12:26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

12:27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

12:28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

12:29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

12:30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.

12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

12:33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

12:34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”

12:35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.

12:36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

The Gospel is particularly powerful. Combined with the Epistle, these two passages give us much to contemplate.

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