In today’ selection from the Letter to the Philippians Paul quoted from a very early Christian hymn.
Later, in 1100 St. Anselm would define Theology as “Faith seeking understanding.” I quote that here, because I am surprised that in Paul’s time the Christians were already such fine Theologians. Their faith had brought them a long way into understanding the mystery that is Christ, God made man.
As God the Son, he was in the form of God the Father, but his love for mankind moved him to empty himself, not clinging to that honor.
Taking on a lowly human form, his self-sacrifice did not stop at that. Rather, he became obedient. And it wasn’t ordinary obedience. It went so far as to be obedient in accepting death on the cross.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Holy Week in successively longer sections of this passage, we used it for the antiphons for the Benedictus at Lauds.
For Thursday it is “Christ became obedient for us even to death.” For Friday it is, “He became obedient for us even to death on the cross.”
On Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week we sang the Latin version of those antiphons,” and that singing brought the death of Jesus solemnly home to.
On Friday night, looking forward to the Resurrection, we triumphantly sang, “For this reason God gave him a name above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”
The thrill of singing that antiphon was enhanced by our joy over lent at last coming to an end. As seminarians during lent we rose at five, and between then and a ten ounce lunch at one in the afternoon, the only sustenance we had was two pieces of toast and a cup of coffee at eight. Boy! Did we ever exalt with Jesus over seeing the end of lent as we sang, “Propter quod et Deus, exaltavit illum.”