“This Is Our Faith”
By Deacon Tom
Two of the responsibilities that I have assumed here at Mary Queen of Peace as a Deacon, in advance of the Easter Triduum, are to design and paint the new Pascal Candle each year, and to learn, relearn or learn anew The Exultet, the beautiful proclamation sung at the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. I don’t consider myself a painter, and I am even less of a singer. These are a material sign of the forbearance and flexibility of our Pastor, that he should allow me to tackle either, let alone both. But, in some ways, I have taken these on as part of my own personal Lenten observance, a way to prepare myself for Easter. Some people give up sweets and swearing. I paint a candle and practice an ancient a cappella piece of liturgical music. Go figure…
In some ways, during the deliberately reflective, even somber time, of Lent, to be focusing so much of my time and energy on the Easter celebration feels weird, akin to putting the proverbial cart before the horse. But, to put it simply…Lent without Easter is goofy, even wasted. The utterly fantasmagorical nature of the Resurrection makes Lent worth enduring. (And, yes, that may be the first Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang reference ever uttered from this pulpit.)
Knowing about the Resurrection, loving the Resurrection, living the Resurrection is the perfect frame of reference for Lent. And likewise, today’s Gospel narrative of the Passion is the perfect kick-off for Holy Week and the Triduum.
And make no mistake about it. This week is the biggest week of the year for us as Catholics. It is not a time, as Father Bob pointed out in last week’s bulletin, for us to maybe, possibly, if we have time…squeeze in a little more Church. This is our Faith. This is what we believe. For this Holy Week to be truly Holy in my family, I have to work to make it so. It is an amazing opportunity to practice and pray our Faith. Pardon the cajoling…but please make the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday a priority in your family.
We began today by walking in the footsteps of Jesus as he enters Jerusalem. And then listened and participated in the Passion narrative. We, ourselves, yelled, “Crucify him!” It’s a poignant admission of the role our own sinfulness plays in the salvation story, but also helps us understand the sequence of events about to unfold before us. Without the events of Good Friday, the Last Supper has no meaning, it’s just a well-documented going away party. So too, our experience of the Triduum has no meaning without a personal living of the Passion.
Last August, when Pope Benedict led the celebration of the “Way of the Cross” for World Youth Day in Madrid, he said this of the Passion:
Let us look upon Christ, hanging on the harsh wood of the Cross, and let us ask him to teach us this mysterious wisdom of the Cross, by which man lives. The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving love. The Cross represents the love of the Father and the Son for each of us. Here we meditate on the icon of supreme love, which teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves. This is the Good News that gives hope to the world.
Imagine that. Hope in the face of the hopelessness of the Cross. Listen to the words of the Evangelists, to their accounts of The Passion, and then know what we know as Catholics:
They spit on him, blindfold him, strike him and mock him…and we see hope. He is beaten, scourged and handed over to be crucified…and we see hope. He is crowned with thorns, struck with a reed and mocked some more…and we see hope. He is crucified, his garments are divided and he breathes his last while hanging on a tree…and we see hope. Darkness extends over the whole land. The sun’s light fails and the heavens are dimmed. The veil that protects the sanctuary of the temple is torn in two…and we see hope. The earth quakes and crumbles and the tombs are opened…and we see hope.
Some will look at that icon and see it as a symbol of intense hatred. We, as Catholics, will gaze upon the Cross and know it to be a symbol of love and hope that marks the beginning of a new worship, in a temple not built by men, for it is the very lifeless frame of the dead and risen Jesus that gathers us together and unites us in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was given to us on Calvary,
sustain us with her loving protection, so that we may be able to remain steadfast,
as did she, at the foot of the Cross.