“For our sake Christ was obedient, accepting even death, death on a cross. Therefore God raised him on high and gave him the name above all other names.”

This ancient antiphon, the Christus factus est, which is sung at Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, truly captures the profound meaning of the days upon which we have entered. During Holy Week we celebrate and indeed make present the great mystery of our salvation accomplished through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The words of the Christus factus est are taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (2:6-11). They speak to us of the deep humility of the Son of God and the divine condescension to us poor sinners. When all was considered hopeless and we were burdened by sin and the fear of death, God himself reached down from his place high above the heavens to rescue man from darkness in order to bring him into his Kingdom of light.

We see this theme powerfully echoed in the first Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation in the Roman Missal: “Indeed, though we once were lost and could not approach you, you loved us with the greatest love: for your Son, who alone is just, handed himself over to death, and did not disdain to be nailed for our sake to the wood of the Cross.”

In his words to the Church at Philippi, St. Paul emphasizes Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, completely emptied himself, not clinging to his glory and equality with God his Father, being born in our human likeness. He took on the form of a servant, in order to rescue us from sin and death. One is reminded of our Lord’s own words, “the Son of Man has come not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many.”

It is this mystery of God’s great mercy toward us that we celebrate during Holy Week and at Easter. It was precisely through the Son of God’s perfect act of obedience to the will of his Father that we have been saved. Christ, the new Adam, through his “yes” to the will of the Father has undone that “no” that was uttered by the first Adam through his act of prideful disobedience.

But God the Father did not leave his Son in the throes of death, but as the antiphon we have been reflecting on states, “God raised him on high.” This, of course, refers to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Even though Jesus’ act of obedience to the will of the Father led him to the cross and caused him to suffer death, it was precisely through this obedience unto death that led to the glory of his resurrection.

What does this mean for us? How can we see Christ’s act of obedience and his acceptance of suffering and death as a model for our own Christian lives? It comes down to imitating Christ’s humble emptying of himself, becoming a servant to the Father’s will.

Obedience. This is a word that conjures up all sorts of reactions in our minds and hearts. Once we become adults, it seems to be a natural human tendency to reject the notion that we would be obedient to anyone or anything. With the results of original sin still with us, we desire to chart our own course and reject any external efforts to limit or dictate our own behavior.

But what Jesus teaches us is that it is precisely in this humble obedience to God and his will, this dying to ourselves as his servants, that we find the true meaning of our existence and the peace and joy that the resurrection brings. We cannot have the resurrection without the cross. We might wish to find a way to get around the cross, but Jesus teaches us that there is no other way.

May our celebration of the Paschal mystery teach us once again what it means to follow God with humble hearts set on accomplishing his will for our lives in this world so that we may one day share with Christ in the glory of his resurrection and come to see him face to face in the Kingdom of our Father.

May God grant to each and every one of you a most blessed Easter!

Archbishop Sample’s schedule

Friday, April 3 — Good Friday Service, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 4 — Celebration of the Easter Vigil Mass, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 5 — Easter Sunday Celebration of the Holy Mass, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, 11 a.m.

Wednesday, April 8 — Meeting of the Clergy Personnel Board, Pastoral Center, Portland, 10 a.m.
Friday, April 9 — Meeting of the Oregon Catholic Conference Board, Pastoral Center, Portland, Noon; Evening Reception, Resurrection Parish, 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 11 — Celebration of the Holy Mass and Confirmation, St. Peter Church, Portland, 6 p.m.

Sunday, April 12 — Celebration of the Holy Mass, Divine Mercy Sunday, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, 11 a.m.; Celebration of the Holy Mass, Easter Salem Community Center, Salem, 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 14 — Meeting with Catholic High School Principals, De La Salle North Catholic, Portland, 10:30 a.m.

Wednesday, April 15 — Meeting of the Subcommittee on the Catechism, Chicago, noon

Thursday, April 16 — Meeting of the Cathedral Area Properties, Cathedral, 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 18 — Catholic Charities Benefit Dinner, Oregon Convention Center, 6 p.m.

Sunday, April 19 — Celebration of the Holy Mass and Confirmation, University of Portland Christ the Teacher Chapel, Portland, 10:30 a.m.