Easter Sunday: He Is Risen

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2014 at 7:50 am


Exsultet jam angelica turba caelorum: exsultet divina mysteria: et pro tainti Regis victoria, tuba insonet salutaris. Gaudeat et tellus tantis irradiata fulgoribus: et aeterni Regis splendore illustrata, totius orbis se sentiat amisisse caliginem.

Let now the heavenly hosts of angels rejoice: let the divine mysteries be joyfully celebrated: and let a sacred trumpet proclaim the victory of so great a King. Let the earth also be filled with joy, being illuminated with such resplendent rays: and let men know that the darkness which overspread the whole world is chased away by the splendour of our eternal King.

He is risen indeed. A blessed and restful Easter Sunday to each of you.

~ Wheeler


Holy Week: Saturday

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2014 at 7:09 pm


(I thirst.)

Many years ago, a friend of mine, a wise old Baptist preacher, pointed out to me a thing that has remained close in my heart ever since. We were talking about the Easter season, and about the crucifixion, and he said in his sad and dry Texas twang, “Jesus started His earthly ministry hungry. And He ended it thirsty.”

The godliest, saintliest people I’ve known personally in this sojourn have been men and women of self-denial. Each of them has displayed the readiness, even the eagerness, to go hungry and thirsty rather than miss an opportunity to show forth both Christ’s love and familial love to someone in need.

Last night, I was watching a video of Mel Gibson’s masterpiece, The Passion of The Christ. I remembered while watching it the controversy in our Presbyterian congregation the year the film came out. When Mrs. MacP and I announced our intention to go and see the film at the local cinema, our pastor was shocked — shocked! — that we would violate the Second Commandment with such brazen impunity. We argued about his imputing unto us the motive of  “worshiping” Mr. Gibson’s film and cast, and the pastor remained bitter and disappointed that we shrugged off his somewhat shrill admonitions. I have forever been proud of myself for holding my tongue when I later found out that this same pastor had ponied up the cash to go to Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York. The conversation wouldn’t have been worth the expenditure of emotional calories.

Back to The Passion of The Christ. One of the things I did not remember about the movie was a brief part in the scene in which Christ stands before the mob, alongside Pontius Pilate. In the scene, Pilate is disgusted and conflicted by the Jews’ savage insistence on crucifying the bleeding and nearly-dead Jesus of Nazareth. He finally calls for water and announces that he will take no responsibility for what is about to happen, and washes his hands in one of the most ominous and poignant examples of symbolism in history.

What caught my eye last night was a glance that the cinematic Jesus (Jim Caviezel) gives to the basin of water brought to Pilate. The sight of the water ushers in a flashback to when Jesus was young and his mother, Mary, was washing His hands. But in that brief glance, I was struck by a visual impression of longing, of thirst. I sat on the couch, not seeing the movie on the screen, but thinking of my Christ and wondering if His thirst surged up in an agonizing flare when He saw the water Pilate was about to waste in his public declaration of “This is Jew business, not Roman business.”

Tonight I am thinking about Mary, and her watching her Son, her little boy, as He was mocked and rejected and abandoned and spat upon and beaten and tortured and murdered and defiled. How empty the seventh night of the week must have felt as she sat and revisited all the things she had treasured up in her mother’s heart since she had first been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. How forbidding that garden tomb must have seemed to her, knowing as she did that His beloved, broken body was sealed inside, lying alone on its stone bier. How thirsty she must have been to hear His voice again, to see His familiar stride through the door.

Our little farm is quiet tonight, the green meadows and woods dark and still. We are anticipating the dawning of the day. May our Father bless and sustain those of you who are keeping watch with us.

Qui tecum vivit et regnat, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

~ Wheeler

garden tomb

Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm


I’ve been reading fairly comprehensively about the Catholic church and faith recently, an admission which alone is sufficient to garner for me yet one more chorus of “Heretic!” from the cyber-peanut gallery. I find myself quite surprised at the amount of things I didn’t know, as well as the amount of things I half-knew or had flat-out wrong. Fascinating material.

And relevant material for Holy Week. The majority of Protestant churches are rightfully renowned for the unattractiveness of their buildings (which they dammit-to-hell do not consider holy, for the bleak, banal improv skit (even when scripted by the deacons’ helpful handouts) they call a worship service, and the self-conscious, aimed-at-and-designed-to-impress-their-fellow-man prayers they lift to the Ancient of Days, Whom they seem to forget really is listening and watching.

I’ve said it for many years — I love ritual, order, and pomp. It was no accident that I joined the U.S. Marine Corps (a quasi-religion if ever a military band was such a thing) instead of the “Be All You Can Be” or “Aim High” groups. The Protestants can squeal like wieners on a barbecue if they want, but if they’re honest, they have to admit that the almost 2,000 year-old traditions and sacred-rootedness of the Catholic church inculcates a familial sense of history and tradition that none of the 30,000+ Protestant denominations (at least 44 Reformed sects in the USA alone, and some of them no older than the 1970s!) even comes close to possessing.

I’ve been following the Liturgy of the Hours this week, and I my heart has been warmed and quieted by the readings and the meditations and the prayers. As the shadows lengthen tonight on this Maundy Thursday, my thoughts turn to the One Who stood among His enemies in Gethsemane as His friends ran like cowards into the night. My heart, in its secret meditations, agonizes over the shaming and the battering He endured, all alone, all alone, answering not in kind, all alone, accused falsely and mocked openly, all alone.

I am not alone tonight. I am with the woman I love: my beautiful, clement, modest wife. A glance at her reminds me that she is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, and this takes my mind back to Eden and our Father’s generous wounding of Adam, pulling out a length of bone and closing up the divine divot, forming our first earthly mother from this stick of enmarrowed calcium and presenting her to our first earthly father, and how he took her and loved her and named her. And then I think forward to that Roman spear, in the hands of a man under orders, and how it opened the side of the Firstborn Son among many, and how the blood and the water rained down, and how that same murdered Man prays for me — for me! — even now. The thought makes my soul sob, and I feel the wrack tonight, and praise Christ for the tender nerve endings of the spirit.

Let us be quiet tonight, friends. Let us think of all that we’ve done in rebellion, and of all that He has put right for us.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end, amen.


~ Wheeler



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