Holy Thursday: This rich gift, this fruit of the earth

Gethsemane and Church of All Nations, Jerusalem

God of all consolation, you chose and sent your Son to heal the world. Graciously listen to our prayer of faith: Send the power of your Holy Spirit, the Consoler, into this precious oil, this soothing ointment, this rich gift, this fruit of the earth.

Bless this oil and sanctify it for our use. Make this oil a remedy for all who are anointed with it; heal them in body, in soul, and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction.

As my bishop prepared the Oil of the Sick at my diocese’s annual Chrism Mass, I paid special attention to these words. A few weeks ago, my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Healing of body, soul, and spirit are now in the forefront of my mind as I watch my mom fight this degenerative illness. She, like the human race and, indeed, the cosmos, suffer from the effects of sin, and so we would all be prudent to embrace God’s offer of Grace.

In particular, when I heard the words “fruit of the earth” during the blessing of the sacramental oils, I was struck with the similarity between those prayers and the prayers for the preparations of the gifts at Mass. They, too, speak of the goodness of the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands, all for the divinely ordained assistance of making God’s Grace—his healing—intelligible to human understanding.

The Eucharist is the prime example of this. As noted in a recent post, the earthly, ecological connections with the Eucharist are something that Benedict XVI has commented on with great depth. For instance:

The justified concern about threats to the environment present in so many parts of the world is reinforced by Christian hope, which commits us to working responsibly for the protection of creation. The relationship between the Eucharist and the cosmos helps us to see the unity of God's plan and to grasp the profound relationship between creation and the "new creation" inaugurated in the resurrection of Christ, the new Adam.  

Lastly, and relatedly, when watching a hundred or so of my diocese’s priests stand at the Chrism Mass and renew their vows, I couldn’t help but smile with joy at the beauty of God’s plan. He dares uses the imperfect creation and sinful creatures to share in the salvation of the cosmos and of souls.

The more one considers all this, the more one sees that the Triduum takes on special meaning for Catholic ecologists.

Beginning with Holy Thursday—with the institution of the priesthood, the Mass, and the Eucharist—these next few days show clearly how salvation history is rooted in the very world that, in the beginning, God created “very good” and ordered. Thus, our relation with the world—and, by extension, with the planet’s ecosystems—mingles with divine relation, which makes for a potent means of participating in the drama of our own salvation. 

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as  of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:14)

As we pause these next days to join our lives with the mysteries of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord, let us remember the cosmic implications of these events. And let us never forget that if God wishes to use fruit of the earth and our fellow humans to assist in the offering of His grace, we have a special role in ensuring the integrity of the very ecosystems that keep the earth teeming with fruit, with life, and especially with the human family.

After all, remember where Holy Thursday ends: in a garden, with Christ, and the slumbering men who would flee him, but then, with the power of the Holy Spirit, would one day zealously proclaim to a dying world the Gospel of Glory, of Resurrection, and the radical promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth—indeed, of new community for the many.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.