As we near the Sacred Triduum, the Church continues to set the stage for what is to come. Today’s first reading tells us what prompted the entire passion of our Lord: his love for each of us. It is a love so great that he has it for us even when we betray and deny the Lord. We hear in our Gospel today about the two that did just that, Judas and Peter. But Jesus still does what he does. Thanks to God. May we also have the same kind of love. As St. Robert Bellarmine says, “The school of Christ is the school of love. In the last day, when the general examination takes place . . . Love will be the whole syllabus.”
On this Monday of Holy Week, we hear of Mary. She used an entire liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard to wash the feet of Jesus. Judas criticizes her, but Jesus said she has done rightly. Only the best for Jesus. That is what we must give him this holy week.
Holy Week was awesome this year at St. Charles. Our vigil, for instance, lasted three hours and fifteen minutes. We were not deprived of any smells and bells (or readings!), thanks be to God, and for the first time in many years, we began outside.
Here’s a photo, thanks to my friend Casey.
Holy Week connects with people so well likely because is packed with rich meaning that applies to us in the here and now just as much as it applied to those who lived here on earth during the days of Jesus.
Yet, at the same time, Holy Week is a reminder that the “days of Jesus” continue in the Church and in our lives today in very particular ways.
Indeed, the days of Holy Week flood my mind with thoughts of the cross, suffering, the Eucharist, baptism, readings, confirmation, service, foot washing, prostration, readings, anointing, priesthood, the apostles, fire, readings, darkness, light, candles, the Passion narrative, emptiness, fullness, differentness, and lots more.
There’s a lot to think about during Holy Week.
It’s interesting, though, that often I tend to forget about what follows in connection with all that.
Adrian Fortescue authored an introduction to a small volume of books on Holy Week called Rites of Holy Week. He begins it this way:
Perhaps the first thing to note about Holy Week is that it is part of the same feast as Easter Week following. We must think of all that fortnight, from Palm Sunday to Low Sunday, as one event. The whole fortnight makes up the Easter feast, the paschalia solemnia in which we remember, each year, our redemption by the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. It is true that the character of these two weeks seems as different as anything could be. Holy Week is the time of mourning, the saddest week of the year, the Easter octave the most joyful. Yet they belong together; we should think of them as the two halves of one whole. The change from the mourning of Holy Week to the joy of Easter, taking place in the middle of the function of Holy Saturday, is of the essence of this Pascal solemnity. It was so at the first Easter.
That the week of greatest joy follows the week of greatest sorrow should teach us a great many things, not the least of which that Christ conquered death and still conquers death, even in the ordinary ways of our lives.
The last sentence, folks, is why the Easter Vigil holds such prominence in the Church. It is not an early celebration of Easter as we might think of a typical Saturday evening Mass.
Nope, the “mother of all vigils” takes place in the middle of agony and ecstasy, connecting the horror and darkness of Good Friday’s passion and crucifixion with the glory and beauty of Easter Sunday’s celebration and resurrection.
And it is that resurrection we celebrate especially this week but also for the next fifty days and beyond, with great joy.
So, as we gave something up for Lent, perhaps now we ought to take something sinless on in order to celebrate the holiness–yes, the blessed differentness–of this week, during which we remember the reason for our hope and the reason for our lives.
O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
Today ends Lent and begins the sacred triduum.
Sister Mary Ada
The ancient greyness shifted
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said :
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”
A murmurous excitement stirred
They wondered if they dreamed —
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.
And Moses standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?
A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed
Or apple trees
All blossom – boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that he wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.
No canticle at all was sung.
None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song.
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue —-
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When the embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is Your Mother,
How is Your Mother, Son?”