Sunday, February 13, 2011

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Óscar Romero’s ‘Quaresima’ of Love
(As posted on Tim's El Salvador Blog)

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The number forty has special significance in Scripture. It rained for forty days/forty nights during the Great Flood, Moses spent forty days on the mountain, the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, and Elijah traveled for forty days to the mountain to meet God. And most poignantly, Christ fasted in the desert for forty days before His immolation, a period that is commemorated today by the Lent observation. In fact, the word for Lent in Spanish, “Cuaresma,” or Italian, “Quaresima,” is derived from the Latin, “quadragesima,” which means forty.

On Valentine’s Day 1980, Óscar Romero began a ‘Quaresima’ of Love, embarking on the last forty days of his life, an incredible period in which he crowned his pilgrimage upon the earth with martyrdom, following Jesus down the Lenten path on a route that included a passion in the Garden and culminated with a Pietà scene at the foot of a cross in the chapel of a cancer hospital. Óscar Romero’s ‘Quaresima’ was the crescendo of a life lived for the ages. Five days in, a bomb took out the radio station that broadcast Romero’s sermons. Undaunted, Archbishop Óscar Romero continued to broadcast using short wave radio and international radio networks that picked up his masses and broadcast them to an even wider audience than he had before. Romero preached seven sermons that began with the Beatitudes and followed the Way of the Cross all the way to its consummation in a drama that Hollywood itself would find hard to replicate.

At ten days, Romero received an ominous note bearing an anonymous death threat. And less than ten days after that, it was discovered that the pulpit from which Romero preached had been rigged with enough dynamite to take out an entire city block. The explosives never went off. It was not yet time. Romero continued to preach. In succeeding sermons, he addressed the greatest passages from the Gospel, such as the confrontation between Jesus Christ and Satan, the Transfiguration of the Lord (whose commemoration is the patronal feast of El Salvador), and the parable of the Prodigal Son, among others. During this time, at a final spiritual retreat, Romero confessed his fear of death -- like Christ in Gethsemane, asking for the cup to be passed -- but, in the end, he dutifully accepted God’s will. As El Salvador spiraled towards an inevitable civil war, Óscar Romero pulled out all the stops and, like a voice crying out in the desert, attempted to talk the tyrants from the brink of madness.

The Seven Sermons

I. “Blessed are the Poor” (Spanish)
Supplement (message to the poor)

II. Spiritual Warfare
Spanish supplement (message to the poor)

III. The Savior [read: El Salvador] of the World (Spanish)
Supplement (message to the poor)

IV. The Church: called to repentance; called to prophecy
Spanish supplement (message to the poor)

V. The Promised Land (Spanish)
Supplement (message to the poor)

VI. “Stop the Repression!”
Spanish supplement (message to the poor)

VII.The grain of Wheat” (Spanish)
Supplement (message to the poor)

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