Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday Prayer, Devotional Reading & Catechesis


O God, creator of heaven and earth, grant that as the crucified body of Your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with Him the coming of the third day, and rise with Him to newness of life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Devotional Reading

Ephraim Syrus, 4th century theologian and hymnist writes of our Lord's burial in the sealed tomb:

They sealed you up within the tomb, and set guards, that Your resurrection might be believed among those who deny You. It was... for You that they sealed the tomb and set guards, O Son of the Living One! If they had neglected You and left You and gone after they buried You, there would have been room to lie and say that the disciples stole You. O Quickener of all! When they craftily sealed Your tomb, they made Your glory greater.

Daniel was a type of You, so also Lazarus; one in the den, which the Gentiles sealed up, and one in the tomb, which people opened. . . .

If they had left Your tomb open, their mouth [could have remained] open. But they went away because they had shut Your tomb and sealed it and closed their own mouths. Yea, they closed it, and when they had senselessly covered Your tomb, all the slanderers covered their own heads.

But in Your resurrection You persuade men concerning Your birth. You were pure in the womb that was sealed and alive in the tomb that was sealed. The womb and the tomb, being sealed, were witnesses to You [and to Your divinity].

The belly and hell cried aloud of Your birth and Your resurrection: The belly, which was sealed, conceived You. Hell, which was closed up, brought you forth. Nature did not cause either the belly to conceive You or hell to give You up! . . . Thus do they proclaim that You are of heaven.

Sealed was the tomb to which they had entrusted You, that it might keep You dead, that is, safe, and virgin was the womb, which no man knew. Virgin womb and sealed tomb, like trumpets, proclaimed Him in the ears of a deaf people.


Luther's Large Catechism
V. The Sacrament of the Altar

Further Admonition and Encouragement Regarding the Sacrament as we prepare for the feast of the Resurrection of our Lord for those asking why, if we have already been forgiven, one needs to receive the Lord's Supper.

64 In the second place, there is besides this command also a promise, as we heard above. This ought most strongly to stir us up and encourage us. For here stand the kind and precious words, “This is My body, which is given for you.… This is My blood … shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” 65 These words, I have said, are not preached to wood and stone, but to me and you. Otherwise, Christ might just as well be silent and not institute a Sacrament. Therefore consider, and read yourself into this word you, so that He may not speak to you in vain.
66 Here He offers to us the entire treasure that He has brought for us from heaven. With the greatest kindness He invites us to receive it also in other places, like when He says in St. Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 67 It is surely a sin and a shame that He so cordially and faithfully summons and encourages us to receive our highest and greatest good, yet we act so distantly toward it. We permit so long a time to pass ‹without partaking of the Sacrament› that we grow quite cold and hardened, so that we have no longing or love for it. 68 We must never think of the Sacrament as something harmful from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved. Why, then, do we act as if the Sacrament were a poison, the eating of which would bring death?
69 To be sure, it is true that those who despise the Sacrament and live in an unchristian way receive it to their hurt and damnation [1 Corinthians 11:29–30]. Nothing shall be good or wholesome for them. It is just like a sick person who on a whim eats and drinks what is forbidden to him by the doctor. 70 But those who are mindful of their weakness desire to be rid of it and long for help. They should regard and use the Sacrament just like a precious antidote against the poison that they have in them. Here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin. It contains and brings with it God’s grace and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune.
71 So you have, from God, both the command and the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ. Besides this, from yourself, you have your own distress, which is around your neck. Because of your distress this command, invitation, and promise are given. This ought to move you. For Christ Himself says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” [Matthew 9:12]. In other words, He means those who are weary and heavy-laden with their sins, with the fear of death, temptations of the flesh, and of the devil. 72 If, therefore, you are heavy laden and feel your weakness, then go joyfully to this Sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength [Matthew 11:28]. 73 If you wait until you are rid of such burdens, so that you might come to the Sacrament pure and worthy, you must stay away forever. 74 In that case Christ pronounces sentence and says, “If you are pure and godly, you have no need of Me, and I, in turn, no need of you.” Therefore, the only people who are called unworthy are those who neither feel their weaknesses nor wish to be considered sinners.
75 But if you say, “What, then, shall I do if I cannot feel such distress or experience hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?” Answer, “For those who are of such a mind that they do not realize their condition I know no better counsel than that they put their hand into their shirt to check whether they have flesh and blood. And if you find that you do, then go, for your good, to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Hear what sort of a fruit your flesh is:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these. [Galatians 5:19–21]
76 Therefore, if you cannot discern this, at least believe the Scriptures. They will not lie to you, and they know your flesh better than you yourself. Yes, St. Paul further concludes in Romans 7:18, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” If St. Paul may speak this way about his flesh, we cannot assume to be better or more holy than him. 77 But the fact that we do not feel our weakness just makes things worse. It is a sign that there is a leprous flesh in us that can’t feel anything. And yet, the leprosy rages and keeps spreading. 78 As we have said, if you are quite dead to all sensibility, still believe the Scriptures, which pronounce sentence upon you. In short, the less you feel your sins and infirmities, the more reaso79 In the second place, look around you. See whether you are also in the world, or if you do not know it, ask your neighbors about it. If you are in the world, do not think that there will be lack of sins and misery. Just begin to act as though you would be godly and cling to the Gospel. See whether no one will become your enemy, and, furthermore, do you harm, wrong, and violence, and likewise give you cause for sin and vice. If you have not experienced this, then let the Scriptures tell you about it, which everywhere give this praise and testimony about the world.
80 Besides this, you will also have the devil about you. You will not entirely tread him under foot [Luke 10:19], because our Lord Christ Himself could not entirely avoid him. 81 Now, what is the devil? Nothing other than what the Scriptures call him, a liar and a murderer [John 8:44]. He is a liar, to lead the heart astray from God’s Word and to blind it, so that you cannot feel your distress or come to Christ. He is a murderer, who cannot bear to see you live one single hour. 82 If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you [Ephesians 6:16], you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible. But there is no reason why we walk about so securely and carelessly, except that we neither think nor believe that we are in the flesh and in this wicked world or in the devil’s kingdom.
83 Therefore, try this and practice it well. Be sure to examine yourself [1 Corinthians 11:28], or look about you a little, and just keep to the Scriptures. If even then you still feel nothing, you have even more misery to regret both to God and to your brother. Then take this advice and have others pray for you. Do not stop until the stone is removed from your heart [Ezekiel 36:25–26]. 84 Then, indeed, the distress will not fail to become clear, and you will find that you have sunk twice as deep as any other poor sinner. You are much more in need of the Sacrament against the misery which, unfortunately, you do not see. With God’s grace, you may feel your misery more and become hungrier for the Sacrament, especially since the devil doubles his force against you. He lies in wait for you without resting so that he can seize and destroy you, soul and body. You are not safe from him for one hour. How soon he can have you brought suddenly into misery and distress when you least expect it!
85 Let this, then, be said for encouragement, not only for those of us who are old and grown, but also for the young people, who ought to be brought up in Christian doctrine and understanding. Then the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer might be taught to our youth more easily. Then they would receive them with pleasure and seriousness, and so they would use them from their youth and get used to them. 86 For the old are now nearly past this opportunity. So these goals and others cannot be reached unless we train the people who are to come after us and succeed us in our office and work. We should do this in order that they also may bring up their children successfully, so that God’s Word and the Christian Church may be preserved. 87 Therefore, let every father of a family know that it is his duty, by God’s order and command, to teach these things to his children, or to have the children learn what they ought to know [Ephesians 6:4]. Since the children are baptized and received into the Christian Church, they should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us. They must all certainly help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 439n you have to go to the Sacrament to seek help and a remedy.

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