Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

Missale Romanum 1970 (MR' 70) 

For today’s column on liturgical texts, we turn our attention to the prayer said by the priest at the Easter Vigil as he inserts incense grains into the Paschal Candle with pins. This rite represents the five glorious wounds of Christ on the Cross (hands, feet, and side), which were visible on His glorified Body at the Resurrection. The following translation of this prayer is taken from the 2010 ICEL translation of the Roman Missal: “By His holy and glorious wounds, may Christ the Lord guard us and protect us. Amen.”

In his Resurrection, the five wounds of Christ “verify that the risen body in which He appears to them [the disciples] is the same body” that underwent the crucifixion (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 645). In other words, Christ truly died and He truly rose. More importantly, however, the wounds of Christ have ongoing, atoning efficacy flowing from the historical moment of the Passion itself. The five wounds indicate that Christ’s priesthood continues forever.

In pp. 340-1 of their commentary on St. John’s Gospel, Martin and Wright explain well the significance of the five wounds: “The wounds on Jesus’ resurrected body reveal that He is forever fixed in the act of love in which He died. The love and sacrifice that He offered on the cross are forever present before the Father as ‘expiation for our sins, and…for those of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2)” (emphasis mine). This is precisely why the Mass is a “propitiatory” Sacrifice (cf. Catechism no 1367). Every individual Mass contains and communicates to the Church the fullness of Christ’s redemptive work as Priest and Victim on the Cross.

Since Jesus bears His wounds before the Father, His human will (always in total union with His divine will) is particularly manifest and continuously efficacious in the Mass. As both Priest and Victim, Jesus continues to exercise His human will to be our atoning Lamb “destined before the foundation of the world” (cf. 1 Peter 1:19-20, RSV). This is exactly how Our Lord shows Himself to St. John in Revelation 5: the Lamb is risen and glorious while also bearing the wounds of His sacrificial death, and He continues to exercise a propitiatory priesthood! Every Mass, therefore, according to the Johannine vision, contains a new outpouring of grace, because our Risen Lord stands before the Father as eternal Priest and Victim.  

The eternal priesthood of Christ our risen Lord is what we read about in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “[Christ] holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever. Consequently He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24-25, RSV, emphasis mine). In view of this, Eastertide is the fulcrum around which time itself revolves. His glorious wounds are the connecting link between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The Resurrection is what makes it possible for the merits of Good Friday to reach us efficaciously in the present moment. 

In question 54 article 4 of his exposition on Christ’s Resurrection in the tertia pars of his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas lists several arguments which demonstrate why Christ’s wounds appear on His glorified body. We do well to consider reasons three and four, for which he draws on the Biblical commentary of St. Bede the Venerable: “Thirdly, ‘that when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death He endured for us’ (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Fourthly, ‘that He may convince those redeemed in His blood, how mercifully they have been helped, as He exposes before them the traces of the same death’ (Bede, on Luke 24:40).

Essentially, St. Bede and St. Thomas both show us succinctly everything we have examined above. Easter is all about our risen Lord’s never-ending love and mercy for us as Priest and Victim in heaven and in the Mass. Thanks be to God! 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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