Friday, March 25, 2016

March 25: The Alpha and the Omega ~ Not this way again for 141 years

"Good Friday and the Feast of the Annunciation will not fall on the same day again for 141 years. The Beginning and the End. It's the Jubilee Year of MERCY. Coincidence? You decide."
Alpha 01This week is the holiest week of the year.  Through the Passion, suffering, death and resurrection of Our Blessed Lord, the curse of Adam is undone.  Our Lord provides the path to salvation through the cross so that we are no longer permanent exiles from Paradise.  This year, however, a rare convergence of holy days affords an added perspective.  This year, Good Friday falls on March 25, which is the feast of the Annunciation. From the year 1900 until this year, the Annunciation and Good Friday have converged only five times, 1910, 1921, 1932, 2005 and will happen again this year.  After this year, however, these two holy days will not converge again for another 141 years.  This is the longest stretch of time where those two holy days will not converge since at least as far back as the year 1700.  While the stretch of time may not be of any consequence, it is interesting to think about, especially considering these two feasts will not coincide again within our lifetimes.

Alpha 02

With Good Friday falling on the same day as the Annunciation, we can easily recall our Blessed Lord’s words to John in the Book of Revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”  In witnessing the Annunciation on the same day as the crucifixion, we have an opportunity to contemplate the fullness of the Incarnation as it is consummated in a single day.  And it’s no mere coincidence that brings these two holy days together.

St. Augustine tells us in the fifth chapter of Book 4 of his work titled, “On the Trinity”:
For He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which He was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which He was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before nor since.
The long-standing tradition of the Church is that Our Lord was actually conceived on March 25, and He was actually crucified on March 25.  But when we consider that the Incarnation was a very specific and deliberate promise from God to undo the sin of Adam, there is another element to consider.
This past Sunday was the first day of spring.  If we consider the first day of spring to be a reflection of the first day of creation, as new life replaces the deathly sleep of winter, then we can likewise consider the six days of creation from that first day of spring.  And if we consider this past Sunday to be the first day of creation, an amazing thing happens as the sixth day of creation falls also on March 25.  And according to the Golden Legend by Archbishop Jacobus de Voraigne of Genoa, believed to have been published in 1260, that concurrence also is no mere coincidence:
Alpha 03This blessed Annunciation happened the twenty fifth day of the month of March, on which day happened also, as well tofore as after, these things that hereafter be named. On that same day Adam, the first man, was created and fell into original sin by inobedience, and was put out of paradise terrestrial. After, the angel showed the conception of our Lord to the glorious Virgin Mary. Also that same day of the month Cain slew Abel his brother. Also Melchisedech made offering to God of bread and wine in the presence of Abraham. Also on the same day Abraham offered Isaac his son. That same day S. John Baptist was beheaded, and S. Peter was that day delivered out of prison, and S. James the more, that day beheaded of Herod. And our Lord Jesus Christ was on that day crucified, wherefore that is a day of great reverence.
The intimate connection between the Incarnation and death of Our Lord and the creation and subsequent fall of Adam is undeniable.  But to consider that they truly could have taken place on the same exact day is extraordinarily remarkable.
St. Paul wrote about this connection in his letter to the Romans:
Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned—for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.
But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.
For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.

In this one passage, we can see that the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord is an undoing of the sin of Adam.  And when you think of the creation and expulsion of Adam taking place on the same day as the conception and crucifixion of Our Lord, so many more parallels begin to emerge:
  • When Adam and Eve sinned, they were expelled from a garden. Our Lord’s passion began in the Garden of Olives.
  • After Adam’s sin was discovered, God told him that by the sweat of his brow shall he eat bread. In the Garden of Olives, Our Lord perspired a sweat of blood in order to give us His Body, which He called the Bread of Life.
  • God cursed the ground and told Adam that “thorns and thistles it shall bear for you.” After Our Lord was arrested, He bore a crown of thorns upon His head.
  • In the Garden of Eden, Adam ate the fruit of a tree which brought about death. In Jerusalem, Our Blessed Lord carried a dead tree on a path to Calvary.
  • In the Garden, God took a rib from Adam’s side while he slept to create Eve. On the cross, after Our Lord gave up His spirit in the sleep of death, a lance pierced His side, and from the flowing blood and waters came His mystical Bride, the Church.
  • When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God denied them access to the Tree of Life. At Golgotha, Our Lord’s crucifix became the new Tree of Life, and His Body and Blood became its fruit.
  • Through Adam, death entered the world. Through Our Lord’s death and resurrection, eternal life became possible for man.
Alpha 04St. Matthew named the place of Our Lord’s crucifixion in the 27th chapter of his Gospel.  He said, “they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull).”  According to Jewish tradition, Golgotha was a reference to the final resting place of Adam’s skull.  In many artistic depictions, Our Lord’s crucifixion is placed directly above a skull, and so even the location of the Crucifixion of Our Lord took place in relation to Adam’s sin.
Our Blessed Lord said that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  As St. John so beautifully wrote:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be
through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
Our Lord was there in the Garden with Adam.  He created Adam and gave him life.  Our Lord was with him when he sinned, and He was with him when he was expelled.  The sentence of death was spoken by Our Blessed Lord’s own lips, but in His infinite Mercy, He offered Himself in Adam’s place so that we may have eternal life with Him.

May you have a very blessed Holy Week.

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