Holy Week and the Triduum was a marvelous experience for our Saint Patrick's community. I was unable to make it to Maundy Thursday observances because of a work commitment, but we shared that liturgy with Apostles' Church at their meetingplace. On Friday we had a joint Tenebrae service with South Elkhorn Christian Church. The liturgy was well done, and SECC has some friendly folks.
I was very pleased with our Easter Vigil; I'd spent a great deal of time practicing to chant the Exultet, and by the time I finished it, I thought I was going to pass out by the end of it, but happily I remembered to bend my knees a bit halfway through the 6 minute song. Here's an excerpt:
This is the nightI was honored and even humbled to lead our people into the Easter Vigil and celebration in this way. I spent part of Holy Week listening to Kallistos Ware's lectures on the meaning of the cross (scroll down the page for links), and one of hte things that occurred to me as I practiced is that many protestant Christians are - how can I put this - inappropriately sorry for the death of Christ. I've read some devotions regarding the execution of the Lord that speak as if it were entirely a terrible, terrible things, and really it would have been better if the whole thing could have been avoided. This is not true, of course, for the death of Christ was an extravagant act of love by God. We thank the God who so wonderously created, and more wonderously redeemed>!
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.
O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
This is a Western hymn, so I do find some of the theology a bit problematic. The song reads, "
For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!"
As Bishop Kallistos puts it, it is biblical to say that Christ paid the ransom, but we must remember that this is a concept that only goes so far. We can not take it so far as to say what the Scripture does not, i.e. that Christ paid the ransom to the devil, or that Christ paid the ransom to God, because neither was really "holding us for ransom." Rather, the emphasis is on the healing and freeing work of Christ: it is as if we were slaves, and Christ laid down payment to purchase us for himself.
To say that Christ paid the ransom to the devil brings us a place of theologizing about "the devil's rights" over humanity before God. That is deeply, deeply problematic, and it is an error made by some patristic writers (apparently) and many Pentecostals (obviously). To say that God was enslaving us and that he needed a ransom paid to himself does two problematic things: 1) it presents God as capricious and evil, because in such a conception it becomes God who keeps us enslaved to sin and death. 2) It places a wedge between Christ and the Father, and the redemptive work of Christ is depicted as something that he performs over against the Father. That's a problem. This is a mistake that some patristic writers made (apparently) and many Baptists make (obviously).
Is that enough for today? I think it is.