14 April 2022


O admirabilis potentia Crucis! O ineffabilis gloria passionis, in qua et tribunal Domini et iudicium mundi et potestas est Crucifixi. (Leo, PL 54, 340; O wonderful powerfulness of the Cross! O unspeakable Glory of the Passion! in which is the Tribunal of the Lord and the Judgement of the World and the powerful authority of the Crucified). Superb latinity: notice the contrast between potentia [what it can achieve] and potestas [the authority of a public official], the first pointing to and enacting the second. S Leo the Roman, the consummation of the old pagan Romanitas and principal begetter of the new, portrays the Crucified as a Roman Magistrate seated in full authority upon his curule chair passing Judgement on the mundus, the world which is now beginning to pass away; tetelestai!! .... ego nenikeka ton kosmon!!! But this Magistrate is not togatus; it is the essence of His Imperium that He is naked and scarred, and His curule chair is soaked in the scarlet of His Blood. Is this the ultimate apotheosis of oxymoron, the purpose for which oxymoron was, before time began, created in the mind of the Father and is now Spoken?

And what majestic theology. However can people repeat the old nonsense that we Latins see only pathos in the Crucifixion, and only Glory in the Resurrection! Gloria Passionis!

But we do rather indulge ourselves in the idea that our crucified Lord is ever merciful. He is, and the Divine Mercy does flow endlessly from His opened Sacred Heart, but that is only one side of a single coin. The Cross is also the tribunal, the Judgement seat, where the mundus receives iudicium, condemnation. We kneel before it on Good Friday in loving gratitude for the Blood of Salvation, but equally, surely, in Fear. The very tortured Reality whose feet we kneel today to kiss emphasises the reality and horror of the Sin in my own heart; He is the Lord whose painful light shows up the dark corners of my life and admits no other evidence in His Court of Appeal than His own Blood. He is the One who strips away all our chattering man-made self-justification so as to leave us naked but saved.


Matthew said...

There is of course a difference between the "festive" red of Pentecost and the sombre Passiontide shade worn in some cathedrals and churches following the so-called "English Use". Percy Dearmer asserts that black was worn on Good Friday in most dioceses in the middle ages, but red or violet were used in Exeter, whose cathedral still possesses (and possibly still uses?) vestments and hangings in Passiontide Red, with plain black orphreys.

coradcorloquitur said...

What a glorious and consoling phrase, dear Father Hunwicke: "naked but saved"! It says it all. A blessed, joyous Easter to you and your family. He rose, as He said He would!

Matthew said...

Dear Fr Hunwicke, Somehow this comment ended up attached to the wrong post -- but I see that the same point has been made by others, so nothing lost.