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I just came home from singing with the choir for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and Tenebrae a little while ago. It’s the beginning of the Triduum marathon for us. But, it’s a small sacrifice when put in the context of Christ’s Passion and death, which we observe again on Good Friday tomorrow.
I’ve been contemplating the extraordinary life of Jesus this Lententide. How his presence, even in his mother’s womb (one might say, “as a mere clump of cells”), blessed John the Baptist in his mother’s womb with the graces sufficient to “make straight the way of the Lord.” To be the last and greatest of the prophets. How he blessed Simeon and Anna at his presentation in the Temple. And the shepherds and the Magi. A mere baby, totally dependent and speechless and yet all who came in contact with him were changed forever.
This humble beginning — born in a stable and wrapped in the swaddling clothes intended for the Passover lambs — and ignominious end as a tortured and crucified criminal, lead to the advent of the Christian church which completely changed the world. It’s almost too improbable — that the life and death of a first century Jewish peasant would upend the pagan world in a few short years. The realization of this improbability chipped away at my atheistic skepticism some years ago. I could no longer convince myself that this was merely a man.
As I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, it has occurred to me just how extraordinary Christ’s behavior is under the circumstances. He is suffering this grave injustice as an innocent man, and yet he expresses no anger and no self-pity. In fact, just the opposite. When he encounters the women weeping for him on his way of the cross, he expresses pity for them. I can’t help but wonder how he blessed Saint Veronica as she carried off his image on the cloth she used to wipe his blood-stained face. Or Simon of Cyrene, who helped to carry Jesus’ cross and bore the blood of the Lord on his own shoulders. . .
I’ve always been struck by the image of Satan that Dante portrays in The Inferno. This fallen angel — magnificent as a creature of God — is in the pit of hell with his lower half encased in the ice of his tears of self-pity. If ever there was someone entitled to self-pity, it’s Jesus. And, yet, he not only doesn’t indulge himself, he continues to bless those around him, even from the cross. “You will be with me in paradise.” “Behold your mother.” “Father forgive them.” These are not normal human responses to the circumstance he finds himself in. Even his cry of “My God, my God, why have you abandon me?” (from Psalm 22) is a blessing to those of us who undergo serious suffering. It gives us permission to cry out in imitation of our Lord and to trust in the redemptive and purifying power of our own suffering united to Christ’s.
These are dark days in our world and our nation. But, there is this glimmer just on the horizon. The One whose radical love is eternal and ever present will rise again. We just have to have a little faith, and to love one another as He loves us, by His grace.
Blessed Triduum, Ricochet. Peace of Christ be with you.Published in