Moving Towards the Triduum

Last week I posted a link to this book by Fr. John D. Powers called If they Could Speak which contained re-animated first person accounts by ten witnesses to Christ's Passion, including James, Judas, Pilate, the Crossmaker, the Mocking Soldier,Simon The Cyrenean who helped Jesus carry the cross for a while, Mary Magdalene, The Repentant Thief, the Beloved Disciple John, and Mary, Christ's Mother.

Christ behind the screen James Tissot

As we get nearer the end of this year's Lenten journey I think a lot of us who started out on this path over 40 days ago do find the the last few "holiest "days of the Triduum i.e Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday quite a struggle.

But I know I have found great comfort and support from the posts and e.mails of fellow blogger friends. Their individual wisdom, wit and insight has kept me going.

                                                                  Artist Diego Rivera "Sleep"

Jesus did say stay awake to the disciples and we all know what happened to them !

It is a very intense few days and it's interesting to see how different bloggers respond at this pivotal stage of the Lenten journey.

Some people wisely warn to stop over- doing the "stuff of Lent" altogether at this stage; abandon the exercises, programmes and formalised practices and just rest in wordless contemplation. (See Contemplative in The Mud's fine post "One Danger of Holy Week" here.)

Some people say keep your eyes fixed on Easter Sunday and the Resurrection and don't become too morbidly bogged down on the dark side of the Good Friday cross. (See Paul Campbell's video at People for Others here)

Others, particularly people who have been following The Ignatian Exercises this Lent, want to stay, however painful it may be, alongside the experience of Christ, the disciples and other figures like His mother Mary. ( See some of the comments in People For Others link above.)

The stress here is to experience as if they were in the here and now of the final events of Christ's life and passion, almost without foreknowledge of the Resurrection to come.
The old cliche of trying to seek and find balance and wisdom can see a little naive at this point of Lent. How can there be balance in the events of the crucifixion ?

The scripture readings are so full of poignancy and I find it difficult to keep the tears from falling during the last services of Holy Week.

The duel between good and evil being played out in the Scriptures is a mentally and viscerally real one that can be applied without difficulty to our real lives here and now too.

Yes, there is a danger of being caught and sucked into a downward spiral and vortex and I need to ask God for help and the liturgy and the services to pull me through sometimes.

I am reminded of Peter in the storm being asked to get out of the boat  and walk on the water and being told by Jesus "Do Not be Afraid."

I suppose by rights that I should trust that God will not let me sink beneath the waves these last few days. He is here with us NOW.

Obviously, it all depends on a person's individual temperament, preferences as to where they go with things these last few days. 

OK- assuming it is difficult for most of us, and maybe even a few of us are hanging on by our one stringed harp of Hope...

 I hope these concluding words from John Power's book, "If They Could Speak", will help....  I know they do for me.

If not, then just chuck them and crack an early Easter egg on me. A small one .
(Mea culpa.)

"Lent, and the individuals who have crossed the bounds of time to share themselves in this book, teach me something about the God I do and do not believe in. I do not believe in a God  who:

enjoys human suffering,
hates the world,
refuses people fun,
blesses corrupt authority,
likes being feared,
belongs to only one church or one class of people,
can't laugh at foolish human mistakes,
casts people into hell for all eternity for the slightest infraction of dogmatic rules,
can't enjoy a baby crying in church,
has been captured by philosophical concepts,
is understood by those who refuse to love,
is worshipped in church but is forgotten on the streets,
believes sex is evil,
promises pie only in the sky and not a slice today,
provides middle-class comforts,
chooses sides in war,
gives the answers to life's mysteries only to a select few,
demands large donations in exchange for eternal reward,
can't transform every person with love,
believes human nature is inherently corrupt,
hides when men and women are in need,
excludes from worship those who struggle with doubts, sexuality, or anger at the church,
compromises the spirit for the letter of the law,
proclaims, "I'll get you some day,"
created humanity but then left us to our own devices,
ignores the promise to be with us till the end of time,
whose name is not hope,
is as small as I am.

Lent, and those men and women who were there at the crucifixion of Jesus and have
imaginatively shared them- selves in this little book, teach me to believe in God who is:
new life,
everything we honestly love, full of surprises, faithful to every promise,
eternally young,
free to all who choose freely,
within every person regardless of race, faith, or economic class,
sensitive to those who fail, sin, and make mistakes,
the foundation of all,
still being crucified today,
utterly beyond adequate description,
always on the side of truth,
laughing at funny human formalities and rituals,
always ready to meet us more than halfway,
pleased when people simply try,
more than our narrow picture of perfection,
alive in this world, not just waiting in another,
that mysterious "something" that helps us survive the loss of loved ones,
more than the sum total of human achievement or wishes,
beyond all,
a personal reality, not just an impersonal force,
concerned with justice more than good order,
the creator who continues to create today,
still teaching those willing to learn
the answer to evil,
understanding when habits addict us,
suffering in all who suffer,
worrisome to those who desire to have power over others,
self-revealing through all that is most human,
light enough to brighten any darkness, and
still rising up in hope today.

If the Lord does not rise, love is senseless, and God is absurd. If there is no resurrection, true meaning can never be found in this life. If Jesus did not and does not continue to rise from the futility of the cross and tomb, them life itself becomes unbearable; a mere sham of what it could be. 

With- out the Lord's rising, yesterday and today, the cross teaches only that those who are strongest will survive and those with the most power will control and thrive. Good, purpose, virtue, and courage matter little without resurrection, for only indifference and meaninglessness flow from an empty cross and imprisoning tomb.

Every human heart holds a corner of fear at the possibility that Jesus did not and does not rise, that the Lord is still dying into nothingness. 

Belief in resurrection is a choice, built only on the promise of Jesus and on a thousand little, everyday experiences of hope. 

Lent is a time to renew that choice.
Lent is not a season for berating oneself with gloom and self-inflicted shame, morbid grief over personal mistakes or the sins of the world. Nor is it a time for perverse self- hatred for lack of perfect faith.

Lent is a time to wash our faces with hope, to pour the water of service over the feet of those who are crucified today, and to bathe in the daily baptism of new life, which makes us forever one with the risen and rising Christ of Easter."

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