Pastoral Message – April 9, 2023
“Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani.”
The Latin phrase above is an excerpt taken from one of our liturgical songs today. While a poetic command, it implies a lot of backstory, making the phrase pretty theological but even more deeply foundational to Christian faith.
Now I know just enough Latin to be a wee bit dangerous, still I might translate the excerpt like this: “Christians, offer praises of sacrifice to the Passover Victim.” The hymn in the bulletin translates the phrase as “Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises.” And if one googles it, they’ll find different translations some of which are way off the mark. (Obviously, Google Translate doesn’t work very well with 11th Century ecclesiastical Latin). So it might be helpful to check out a few points of backstory, a few points of theology, getting a deeper understanding.
Part of the backstory refers to Moses and the final plague that caused an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh to free Hebrew slaves, a.k.a. God’s chosen people. The Paschal or Passover victim in that original case was a spotless, blameless lamb who was killed so that God’s people would have freedom and life. Theologically speaking, Jesus Christ is shown to be the Lamb of God, freeing God’s people from their slavery to sin and from the tyranny of a despot – in this case freeing us not only from a Pharaoh but death itself. (Jesus as Lamb of God is a whole lot more powerful than Charlton Heston playing Moses in the Ten Commandments. Understatement of the millennia there!)
Another part of the backstory is that people way back when made offerings to God. Such offerings were the results of their labor and livelihood. The sweat of their brow and the strain of their muscles helped to make their offerings a sacrifice – giving to God their first-fruit. Theologically, God gave humanity His first-fruit. His Son Jesus became a sacrificial offering on the Cross.
Again, a part of the backstory implies that God’s “chosen people” isn’t just the Hebrew line, but now also the Greek, the Gentile, truly any person from any and every race and tongue who professes Jesus Christ as Messiah, Savior of the world, Prince of peace, Lord of all and more intimately, Lord of their life. Embracing this theology as an identity allows one to be called a Christian, to live as a Christian, to see the world as a Christian, to think as a Christian, and thus to love, to hope, to have faith, and rest, praising God as a Christian.
So y’all, as we think about Easter, let’s contemplate
our own backstory, our testimony of God in our hearts, minds and lives. Let’s apply theology to our lives, continuing to grow in faith and wisdom And most importantly, let us offer ourselves in thanksgiving, as a sacrifice to Jesus Christ whom we devoutly follow as Christians. And as Christians let’s live in the Holy Spirit, praising God the Father for giving us such a Savior!
Now, with that, let me add how wonderful it is that we’re all here at our parish today! I love the celebration of Easter – and that has nothing to do with bunnies, chocolate eggs or “Peeps.” (Although I do appreciate a good old hollow, waxy chocolate rabbit bought at pharmacy or a gas station). I love the fact that Christians everywhere come to worship on this holy day. And I love what God does in the assembly of all those who come. It doesn’t matter if folks come once a year, or if they come to Mass daily. The potential for God to move hearts and bless souls is equal for all! So please have hearts and minds ready to embrace God’s grace. Be kind to each other. Enjoy the day. Share a welcome, a greeting, and a blessing. And then after Mass, go out and live by the truth that Jesus is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Happy Easter Y’all!