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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday of the Fifth week of Lent
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"It is better that one man should die instead of the people"

Saint Bernard (1091-1153), Cistercian monk and doctor of the Church
28th Homily on the Song of Songs

"It is better that one man should die instead of the people"

      The darkening of one makes many bright… "It is better," said Caiaphas, "for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” It is better that one be darkened "in the likeness of sinful flesh," (Rm 8:3) for the sake of all than for the whole of mankind to be lost by the darkness of sin; that the splendor and image of the substance of God should be shrouded in the form of a slave, in order that a slave might live; that the brightness of eternal light should become dimmed in the flesh for the purifying of the flesh; that he who surpasses all mankind in beauty (Ps 44:2) should be eclipsed by the darkness of the Passion for the enlightening of mankind; that he should suffer the ignominy of the cross, grow pale in death, be totally deprived of beauty and comeliness that he might gain the Church as a beautiful and comely bride, without spot or wrinkle (Ep 5:27).

       But under his dark covering (Sg 1:5) I recognize the King…; I recognize him and I embrace him. For though he presents this dark exterior… within is the brightness of divine life, the beauty of his strength, the splendor of grace, the purity of innocence. But covering it all is the abject hue of infirmity, his face as it were hidden and despised: "one tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning" (He 4:15).

         I recognize here the image of our sin-darkened nature; I recognize the garments that clothed our first parents after their sin (Gn 3:21). My God has clothed himself in them by assuming the condition of a slave, and becoming as men are, he was seen in their likeness (Ph 2:7). Under the skin that Jacob wore (Gn 27:16), symbol of sin, I recognize both the hand that committed no sin and the neck which never bowed to evil; no word of treachery was found in his mouth. I know, Lord, that you are gentle by nature, meek and humble of heart, pleasing in appearance and loveable in your ways, "anointed with the oil of gladness above your companions" (Mt 11:29; Ps 44:8). Why then this disfigured likeness to Esau? Whose haggard image this?... Ah! It is mine. He has taken my likeness, taken on my sin… And beneath the rough skin of my sinfulness I recognize my God and my Savior.

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