IN PHILIPPINE Catholic tradition, today is known as dia de tinieblas, or day of darkness. In the afternoon the betrayal of Judas Escariot is read and when the guards arrested Jesus, the church is plunged into darkness amid the clanging of wooden slabs to imitate the tumult following his arrest. The congregation joins in making the noise. The tradition symbolizes the world in darkness.
In the Gospel narrative, the celebration on Thursday morning actually precedes the Wednesday commemoration. On Thursday is the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the washing of the feet of the apostles, the consecration of the Holy Oils and the stripping of the altar where no Mass will be celebrated on it until the vigil of the Resurrection. The arrest of Jesus comes thereafter.
I was attracted by the article of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, “Reflections on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” published in Return to Order and sent to me on April 14. Holy Wednesday was dubbed as “Spy Wednesday,” a titillating title worth sharing. It has a thriller ring to it – Judas spying, betraying and leading the soldiers to Jesus.
Here’s De Oliveira’s new reflection on the story.
“When Our Lord was arrested, He did two seemingly contradictory things. On the one hand, He spoke in such an authoritative voice that His listeners fell to the ground. On the other hand, He stooped to pick up Malchus’ ear, severed by Peter’s sword, and reattached it to the man’s head. He Who terrified also consoled. The same One Who speaks forcefully replaces the severed ear. Is there not some teaching here?
“Our Lord is always infinitely good. He was good to those who sought Him that night as Jesus of Nazareth, and also good when He replaced Malchus’ ear. If we desire to be good, we should learn to imitate Our Lord’s goodness. We should learn from Him that there are moments when it is necessary to know how to energetically hurl the enemies of the Faith to the ground, as well as to know when it is necessary to show compassion to those who want to hurt us.
“Why did Our Lord say, ‘I am He’? Was it only to physically shake those who wanted to arrest Him? Why do such a thing when He would, a little while later, voluntarily give Himself up? The reason is that if He spoke so loudly to the ears, it was only so He could speak even more loudly to the hearts.
“We do not know if those men ultimately profited by the grace they received, but the fear they certainly felt when falling at the sound of the Master’s voice was just as valuable as when that same voice shouted, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’
“Our Lord spoke loudly to the ears. Though they fell to the ground, the same voice that struck the bodies and deafened the ears raised the souls that were prostrate by opening the ears of the spirit that were deaf. Sometimes it is necessary to speak forcefully in order to heal.
“The Redeemer acted differently with Malchus. When He replaced his ear…Our Lord certainly wanted to grant him a temporal good. However, by healing his ear, Our Lord wanted, above all, to open the ear of his soul. So, He Who had healed the spiritual deafness of a few with the forcefulness of His Divine voice, cured the same spiritual deafness of Malchus with words of sweetness, and a physical miracle.
“We live in an epoch of terrible spiritual deafness. If there was ever a time when mankind needed to listen to God’s voice, ours is such a time; but ours is also an era that certainly has the hardest of hearts.
Jesus shows us that, “if we want to cure our own spiritual deafness, as well as our neighbor’s, He is the only one who can do so, as mere human means are useless.”
We must be like“the blind man of the Gospel who shouted to Our Lord, “Domine, utvideam!” (Lord, that I may see!) and “Domine, utaudiam!” (Lord, that I may hear!)
“We don’t know how Jesus will heal our spiritual deafness” but “let us fulfill His Divine will whether He speaks with the terrible voice of reprimand and punishment or with the sweet voice of consolations.”