Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 18

This is the third in an occasional series of columns on the windows of our church. The fifth and sixth windows from the sanctuary on your right as you face the altar represent the Passion of Our Lord and so are appropriate windows to consider during Lent.

In the window on the left as you face this pair are the letters INRI in red around a blue-green cross. INRI is not a word, but rather the initials of the Latin words “Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm,” or in English, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” In St. John’s Gospel we read, “Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.’ Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.”  Ch 19, vss 19-20.
This was the indictment, or “crime,” for which Jesus was executed. St. John’s Gospel loves to use irony, and this charge is of course highly ironic, for Jesus truly is the King of the Jews. Pilate was unknowingly proclaiming the truth!

I am struck that the initials are in very bold red, almost gaudy, while the cross is somewhat subdued in color, almost subtle. I would expect the cross also to be bright red. It just doesn’t strike me as right. Was the artist emphasizing Jesus’ Kingship over His sacrifice on the cross?
The next window continues the theme of the Passion with three brown crosses on top of a yellow hill. The brown of the crosses makes sense since they were wooden. The image of three crosses refers to the fact that the Gospels report that two other criminals were crucified with Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel one of the criminals – traditionally called the “good thief” – asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into His kingdom, showing that the criminal recognizes Jesus as a king. Jesus responds by promising him Paradise (Lk 23:39-43). 

Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts have both of the other crucified criminals deriding Jesus, and St. John doesn’t mention it. However this does remind me of the story of an elderly, pious man who was on his death bed. He awoke to see his doctor on one side of the bed and his priest on the other. The man said, “I die like Jesus, between two thieves,” and expired.
The yellow hill reminds me of hills I’ve seen in dry seasons in California and in Texas, where the grass is all dried up and brownish-yellow. Perhaps the hill is yellow just to form a good contrast with the red smears on it that are evocative of blood.

Jesus suffered and died for us, shedding His blood, literally His life. For the Scriptures blood means life. Anyone who has received a blood transfusion knows that blood means life. Births are accompanied by blood. So for the Scriptures blood means both death and life. Jesus dies, shedding His blood, so that we now can live in Him.
We are so fortunate in this day to be able to receive the Blood of Christ from the chalice at Mass. Under the form of wine we take the reality of Christ’s Blood into us. We literally take His life into us. For many hundreds of years Catholics did not have that great privilege, and we are fortunate to now be able to do so.
According to the plaque in the vestibule, these two windows were generously donated “In Memory of Mr. and Mrs. G. M. Tacon and Rev. P.G. Delahunty by Mr. & Mrs. N. A. Giblin.”   The Rev. P.G. Delahunty was not a Paulist, and I have no idea who he was. I do not know who the others are either, or if they are still around. In any case, we are the beneficiaries of their generosity. 
God bless,

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