Vexilla Regis

by Sister Fidelis

We celebrated the Feast of the Holy Cross last week and the hymn for Vespers that day is Vexilla regis, an ancient and very well-known piece. Written by Fortunatus, it is documented that it was first sung as part of a procession from Tours to Poitiers, France, in November 569 when a relic of the True Cross was sent from the East by Byzantine Emperor Justin II at the request of St. Radegunda.

The hymn is regularly used now for I Vespers the Saturday before Passion Sunday as well as on several Feast days through the year. The text is full of imagery and story and the tune has a flowing march-like feel. A mode I with a fairly narrow range it moves steadily from the top-most tau down to do mainly in stepwise motion or small leaps – this giving a steady movement forward. The few porecti and quilismae add a feeling of flourish. Reading the poetry reminds us again of the love that lies at the basis of our faith:

The royal banners go forth, the mystery of the cross shines,
Where, in the flesh, the creator of flesh hung on the gibbet;
Where he was also wounded by the cruel point of the spear:
That he might wash us from sin, water flowed with blood.
Fulfilled are those things which David prophesied in faithful song,
Saying to the nations: “God has reigned from a tree.”
O beautiful and shining tree, clothed in royal purple,
Chosen to handle on its worthy trunk such holy limbs!
O blessed tree, on whose arms hung the ransom of the world;
It became a balance for his body, and snatched back the spoils of hell.
Hail of Cross, only hope! In this time of the passion,
Increase grace to the faithful, and remove sin from all things.
You, fountain of salvation, O Trinity, let all living things praise together;
Cherish throughout the ages all those whom you save by the mystery of the cross. Amen.

The Sign of the Cross

by Faithful Finch
During Eucharist, I was crossing myself, and saying the words, “Unite us to your Son in His sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through Him,” and the words and the action of crossing myself seemed to be united, and they were both in slow motion and high volume.
It was one of those times when a stunning reality hit me: If I am uniting myself to Christ in His sacrifice, why am I surprised when I have to sacrifice, or go through times that are difficult? I am literally making a sign of the cross on myself. Why not let the tool of letting things cross me out remove the things that keep me from being close to the Lord? It sounds so easy, but seems so much harder in everyday life. I suppose it is because I forget that if I am uniting myself to Christ in His sacrifice, I also can claim the acceptance that comes from being in Him.
Community of Jesus

Sacred Seeing: The Crucifixion

A few years ago, the Community of Jesus published a little book, Sacred Seeing: Praying with the Frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration. As we approached the New Year, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this simple guide to praying with the art here in the church, especially for those of you who aren’t able to come and see it for yourselves. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the meditations from the book. We hope that it helps to enrich your prayer life in 2017!

The Crucifixion

Crucifixion fresco, Silvestro Pistolesi, Church of the Transfiguration

Spend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
What is the general feeling you get from this fresco?
What questions does this image raise for you?

Read the Scripture: John 19:25-34
25 Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus’ Side Is Pierced

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.


26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the[b]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Some thoughts and questions to ponder
What details do you see in this image? Choose one, and spend some time prayerfully considering its meaning.

Consider the stark contrast between light and dark in this fresco. What is the artist saying?

What does the position of Jesus’ body say to you?

Often, the two thieves are pictured side-by-side with Jesus, but in this fresco they are some distance away, and with their backs to the viewer. We cannot make our their faces. Consider what meaning this might have.

In the image, and according to John’s record, there are four people at Jesus’ feet. By what you see in the fresco, what is each one of them feeling and thinking? Now, imagine yourself as one of them. Which one would you be? Why?

Jesus said, “It is finished.” What has God done in your life that remains unfinished? What is finished?

Lord, once you asked if I would value – in the way of your cross – and I said, (how, I do not know,) “Yes, I will.” You knew then how my heart would faint and my will with falter, once I followed you this far, once we got to this awful hill. Here, where darkness gathers, and the birds start to circle, and the Father’s voice falls silent, you bend. You look at me. Now you ask again, if I will follow you – in the way of my cross – and I say, (how, I do not know,) “Yes, your will.”

We are adore you, O Christ,
And we praise you,
For by your holy cross,
You have redeemed of the world.

A Word from the Tradition
What God promises us for the future is great, but what God has already done for us in Christ is greater still. Who can doubt that he will give us his life, since he has already given us his death? Why is human weakness so slow to believe that we will one day live with God? After all, a much more incredible thing has already happened: God died for us. –From a sermon by Augustine (354–430)

Image: © The Crucifixion by Silvestro Pistolesi at the Church of the Transfiguration

Active Dying

By Faithful Finch

Recently I heard that a hospice patient was “actively dying”.  I’d never heard of this term before, and it seemed like an oxymoron. It made me stop and really think about the death process. No one can really help you with the hard “work” of dying.  It is yours to do alone. Yes, there are those who will be there alongside of you to stand with you, comfort you, and encourage you along the way, but the active dying process is yours alone.

I think the same can be said about the process of dying to those sin patterns and habits that keep us distanced from God and our friends and family. We each have to choose to actively work at letting those patterns die inside ourselves. It can be painful and lonely but the work helps to shed the very block that is preventing us from living free.


At the Cross Point

by Faithful Finch

Recently, a friend of mine was having one of those moments we all have of feeling discouraged about who she was. I asked the Lord what He wanted me to say to help her, and got, “You need to keep your eyes on who you are, but don’t lose sight of who I (Jesus) am in the process. That point of intersection is the cross, which is My mercy.” What a helpful word to balance those times when our sin overwhelms us.

Processional cross at the Church of the Transfiguration, Community of Jesus

Death Has No Sting!

holycrossby Sr. Spero

Today is the Feast of the Holy Cross, and the day we sing the Lauds antiphon that captures the essence of Christianity.

O great work of love! Death died at the same time, when life died upon the tree.

If I can grasp the full meaning of this paradox, then my life will be totally different. Death and darkness will have no power, and I will live in a state of gratitude for the sacrifice of the cross.



A word from Saint Francis de Sales

“The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you  as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taking one last glance at you and your courage, and then then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.”