But how does this work? How can one man's death 2000 years ago be an act that saves us today?
There was more here than can be accounted for upon the historical or human level. God was in it. We must use mystical, poetic language to try to express the inexpressible – we speak of the sacrifice of the spotless lamb, we are washed clean in the blood of Christ, by his wounds we are healed. We have to use images - because the reality is too wonderful to grasp fully.
Some Fathers of the Church look at the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany – a Gospel we hear on each Monday of Holy Week. By breaking the alabaster jar of very expensive perfume over the whole body of Jesus and filling the house with that gorgeous scent, Mary’s lavish gesture symbolised the deepest meaning of Jesus' passion and death. The body of Christ is the jar containing the most precious perfume of all time, namely, the Holy Spirit. It was about to be broken open so that the Holy Spirit could be poured out over the whole of humanity - past, present, and to come - with boundless generosity.
Until that body had been broken on the cross, the full extent of the gift of God in Christ and its transforming possibilities for the human race could not be known or remotely foreseen.
This mystery of God's love revealed on the Cross is something we can understand more in the gut than in the head. We can know and experience its truth, even when we can’t fully understand or explain it.
A blessed Holy Week.