Some Notes for the Fifth Sunday of Lent in Year A
Sunday, 10 April 2011
This Sunday was traditionally known as Passion Sunday, or the First Sunday of the Passion and the last two weeks of Lent as Passiontide. The reason for this can be seen in the readings appointed for this Sunday in the Prayer Book (for the Epistle and Gospel see page 148; for the readings at Morning and Evening Prayer, see p. xxvi). In the revised Lectionary, the name Passion Sunday is given to the Sunday next before Easter, traditionally known as Palm Sunday, for the obvious reason that the Gospel for that Sunday is one of the Passion Narratives. Old custom is strong; we now find that day given such titles as ‘Palm Sunday of the Passion’. Whatever we call it, this Sunday brings us into the last stretch of Lent, and would be a good moment to reflect on how one has kept the season and to resolve, if necessary, on a greater effort.
The Readings Ezekiel 37.1–14: Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
Ezekiel, whose name means God will strengthen, was a priest who ministered among the exiles from Jerusalem after its capture by the Babylonians in 598 BC. It was in the plain of Mesopotamia that this famous vision of the dry bones took place (note that the word translated as ‘valley’ in verse 1 is rendered by ‘plain’ in 3.22 and 8.4. The bones are the exiles of Israel, who have no more hope of reviving the kingdom of Israel than of clothing a skeleton and recalling it to life. For this reason it should be noted that this vision has no direct connection with the Christian doctrine of resurrection: the prophecy is of the return to the land of Israel where a new life will be given them. Although in light of the Gospel this vision speaks of resurrection, the original meaning is still a message for us. The exiles suffered from despair and said ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off’. Christians can also become dry and broken in faith, disappointed and indifferent, to us this God’s promise that he can and will put a new spirit within us. In understanding the passage it is important to know that one Hebrew word, רוּחַ, ruach, means wind, breath, and spirit: there is an extended play on words in this passage which it is impossible to capture in English, although it is clear in both Greek and Latin. This is especially clear in verse 9, where the words in bold all : —Then he said to me: 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.'
Psalm 130: De profundis
This, one of the psalms of Ascents, or ‘Gradual Psalms’, is known from its opening words in Latin as ‘De Profundis’. It is also one of the seven Penitential Psalms, a name given from the 6th century AD and possibly earlier to Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143, which are specially expressive of sorrow for sin. In the Western Church it has particularly been used in the commemoration of the faithful departed. In deep sorrow the psalmist cries to God (1-2), asking for mercy (3-4). The psalmist's trust (5-6) becomes a model for the people (7-8).
The Epistle: Romans 8.6–11
In reading this passage it is important to know that in St Paul’s opposition between Flesh and Spirit there is no question of a dualism within a human being, but only of a contrast between types of human beings living in different circumstances—either as united with Christ, or as persisting in sin. The baptised are not in the Flesh, but "in the Spirit," and Paul now proceeds to show that their "life in the Spirit" involves a special kind of divine presence which is called the indwelling of the Spirit. Note the almost interchangeable use of ‘Spirit of God’ , ‘Spirit of Christ’ and “Christ’ (in v. 10). The Spirit of Christ and Christ Himself are one in the divine nature, and hence, the indwelling of the Spirit is also the indwelling of Christ. From the Perichoresi$ or circuminsessio, which arises from the identity of the Divine nature in the Persons of the Trinity, it follows that one Divine Person cannot be divided or separated from another, but where the Divine Nature is there are the three Persons. Chrysostom notes here that Paul does not identify Christ with the Holy Spirit, but only says that whoever has the Spirit, not merely belongs to Christ, but possesses Christ Himself
The Holy Gospel according to St John 11.1–45
The following comments are a small selection from my own incomplete notes on this passage. For further comments, please consult the RCL page: http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/alnt5l.shtml In John’s Gospel the raising of Lazarus is the catalyst for the authorities’ move against Jesus which lead to his arrest. This is seen in the verses which immediately follow the passage read today. The passage falls into six moments or scenes.
I. 1-6: At Petra Jesus hears of the sickness of Lazarus but delays going to him. 1. Jesus had gone to Petra, across the Jordan to escape the religious authorities, who were trying to arrest him (10.39-42). Lazarus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Eleazar, ‘God is my help’. Bethany: (Aramaic: Beth anya ,"house of the figs") is a village on the south-eastern slope of Olivet, nearly two miles from Jerusalem (verse 18), now called el-Azariyeh, after the Arabic name of Lazarus. [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethany_(Biblical_village)] 2. He whom you love: The Greek word (philein) denotes a warmer feeling than the word for loved in verse 5 (agapein), which rather expresses esteem founded on reason and reflection (cf. 21.15,17). The sisters feel that it is enough to acquaint him with their distress without expressly appealing for his sympathy. 4. The Lord does not hasten to Bethany: On the contrary he seems deliberately to delay. This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory : Chrysostom wrote: this signifies not the cause, but the event. The sickness sprang from natural causes, but He turned it to the glory of God. Temple notes: In one sense the sickness of Lazarus was unto death; it was sickness of that and in fact he died of it. But that was not its final issue. It and the death in which it culminated were both for the glory of God as manifested in the restoration of Lazarus to life; and this glory of God took the form of the glorifying of the Son, who was revealed as the Lord and Conqueror of death. But to that end death must first occur. … Perhaps if He had started at once He would have arrived just in time to fulfil the sister’s hope; but Lazarus must have died very soon after the message reached the Lord and his disciples, if not before; as it was be brought them something beyond all their hopes.
II. 7-16: Jesus sets out for Judea. 9. Theophylact notes: Some understand the day to be the time preceding the Passion, the night to be the Passion. In this sense, while it is day, would mean, before My Passion; You will not stumble before My Passion, because the Jews will not persecute you; but when the night, i.e. My Passion, comes, then shall you be beset with darkness and difficulties. NOAB: His life would end when God willed; his enemies could not shorten it. 11. Lazarus our friend has fallen asleep: in Christ friendship survives death. Sleep was a common metaphor for death in ancient Jewish and pagan thought. “But what was before a fancy was turned by Christ’s resurrection into a well-grounded conviction with a fuller meaning, for death among the heathen was generally conceived of as a sleep from which there was no awaking. The Greek word here employed [κεκοίμηται] is the same as is represented in the Eng. cemetery = sleeping-place [Century Bible John].” In v. 12 the disciples take ‘sleep’ literally. 14. Since no mention is made of further news reaching him, we must understand Jesus’ knowledge that Lazarus was dead as more-than-human, like the knowledge of prophets.
III. 17-27: Jesus comes to Bethany and says to Martha: I am the Resurrection and the Life. When the Lord arrives, the time of bereavement is already running its course. It is more than three days since Lazarus died; friends from Jerusalem are coming out to offer consolation. Then the message is brought to Martha, as elder sister. Note that both sisters say to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (21, 32). To Martha, Jesus responds by declaring that he is the Resurrection; to Mary he responds not by words but by action. On the words I am the Resurrection and the life, Temple notes: “How can He actually be the Resurrection? He might be its cause, its donor, its controller; how can He be a future event? Of course there is a forcing of language to express an unutterable thought. But we can put part of what it means in other words. Fellowship with Christ is participation in the divine life which finds its fullest expression in triumph over death. Life is a larger word than Resurrection; but Resurrection is, so to speak, the crucial quality of Life, and the inclusion of it therefore adds vastly to the effectiveness, though not to the actual content, of the saying. There is no denial of a general resurrection at the last day: but there is an insistence that for those who are in fellowship with Jesus the life to which that resurrection leads is already a present fact. ‘If a man believe in Him, although his body dies his true self shall life’ (25); or, as it may be put in other words,. No believer in Jesus shall ever die, so far as his spirit is concerned. ‘Your friend is alive now; for in me he touched the life of God which is eternal; in me, he had already risen before his body perished.; This is the Johannine doctrine of life; it is also the doctrine of Paul (cf Col 3.1).” v. 26: Compare the words from John 4.13-14 in the reading from Lent III.
IV. 28-32: Mary goes to Jesus
V. 33-38: At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus’ compassion is seen. We must hear of Jesus` compassion and tears at the grave of his friend as Good News: for in Jesus we see the very nature of God.
VI. 39-44: Lazarus Raised. VII.45-57: The Reaction Only the first verse of this concluding section is read. We are left with the note that many believed on Jesus because of this sign; but the text goes on to say that some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. From that day the chief priests and the Pharisees took counsel to kill Jesus I am afraid those are the only notes I have been able to prepare for this week.
Note on the Anglican Cycle of Prayer (ACP): The dioceses of the Anglican communion which are remembered in prayer each day are now listed in this Calendar. The name of the diocese is followed by the name of its Church of the Communion in brackets and the name of the bishop.
April 2011 10 SUNDAY: THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
Anglican Cycle of Prayer: Nagpur - (North India) The Rt Revd Paul Dupare
11 Monday: Commemoration of George Augustus Selwyn, 1st Bishop of New Zealand, 1878
For further information see : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Augustus_Selwyn
ACP: Nairobi - (Kenya) The Rt Revd Peter Njoka
12 Tuesday: Lenten Feria
ACP: Nakuru - (Kenya) The Rt Revd Stephen Njihia Mwangi
13 Wednesday: Lenten Feria
ACP: Nambale - (Kenya) The Rt Revd Josiah Makhandia Were
14 Thursday: Lenten Feria
7:00 pm Stations of the Cross and Study Series
ACP: Namibia - (Southern Africa) The Rt Revd Nathaniel Ndxuma Nakwatumbah; Suffragan Bishop of Namibia (Southern Africa) The Rt Revd Petrus Hidulika Hilukiluah
15 Friday: Lenten Feria
ACP: Namirembe - (Uganda) The Rt Revd Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira
16 Saturday: Commemoration of Mollie Brant, Matron among the Mohawks, 1796
For further information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molly_Brant
ACP: Nandyal - (South India) The Rt Revd Dr P J Lawrence
17 SUNDAY: PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION
ACP: Bishop of Jerusalem - (Middle East) The Rt Revd Suheil Dawani
Holy Week Begins!