29 March 2018: Holy Thursday
Hello, my brothers and sisters in Christ,
We have reached Holy Week, today is Holy Thursday, and we approach ever nearer the Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a most solemn time indeed. For many, the excitement of Easter becomes ever present, and rightfully so. However, we must not let that excitement overshadow the Dolorous Passion of Christ. Lent officially ends tonight after the days Vigil, and for many this means that “Meat is back on the menu, boys!” BUT, we must recognize that Lent only ends for a more intense, yet ever so brief, time of fasting. Lent officially ends tonight, but tomorrow is Good Friday, the day of the death of our Lord, and so it must be approached and celebrated with an increased atmosphere of sacrifice and solemnity. Think about it, Good Friday is the only day of the year where Mass is not celebrated. If the Church in her wisdom recognizes the immensity of what takes place on this day to such a degree that she does not even offer the sacrifice that is to be offered in “remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19), then how much more so should we be aware of the necessity to forgo more intensely the pleasures and enjoyments of this earthly life?
As it is Holy Thursday, we have officially entered into the Holy Triduum, the three days that take place before the Joys of Easter Sunday; and these days, as mentioned above, are marked with fasting and solemnity. There is much suffering in these days, but there is much hope as well, which will eventually be fulfilled in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ this coming Sunday. Until then, we must maintain a warrior’s heart: stout and strong, bearing all things well. If your Lent has not been what you wanted it to be, if you have failed time and time again in your Lenten resolution, do not be dismayed; for, we still have time to prepare for the Suffering of our Lord, and we can do this by willingly taking on our own suffering to unite it with Him and to walk this Way of Pain with Him.
We refer to the suffering and death of Jesus as the Passion, and we do so for good reason. The reason that many of us are familiar with is that in it (His Passion) Christ loved us with a passionate love, and this is certainly true, and immensely so. However, to state is so simply, I think, fails to get to the very depths of what that means. In modern terms, Passion merely means to love with intense emotion; but, when you look at the etymology of the word ‘passion’, you will find that it means something much more radical.
‘Passion’ comes from the old Latin word ‘pati’, in later Latin rendered ‘passio’, which means “to suffer”. This is why the word ‘compassion’ means “to suffer with”, because when you have compassion on someone you take their own suffering upon yourself and seek to alleviate it. Passion, then, means not to love with intense emotion, as the English dictionary will tell you; but, rather, it means to love with intense desire, so much so that you are not just willing to suffer with and for the object of your love, but you actually are suffering for and with the object of your love. The Passion, so aptly called, refers to the intense and insatiable love that Christ had for us, so much so that he “gave Himself up for [us]” (Eph. 5:25), and it tells us exactly how He showed this love to us: through suffering. This is the Passion, this is what we are approaching during the Triduum, this is why Good Friday is such a big deal, and this is why we must not spurn this gift by indulging ourselves while our Lord suffered immeasurably on the Cross.
Of course, we cannot neglect to offer up sacrifice on this day, Holy Thursday, either. Today is the day that the Lord celebrated Passover with His disciples. Today is the day where He instituted the Eucharist, and began to institute the new covenant in His blood, which reaches completion and fruition on the wood of the Cross. Today is the day when Christ suffered the agony in the garden, where He sweat His most Precious Blood, the moment that He began to “pour out His blood for the forgiveness of sins” before He was even struck for the first time. Today was the day when Judas betrayed Him with the kiss, and when He turned Himself into the hands of the Temple guards and the Chief Priests. Today is the day where we remember these things and unite ourselves to them. Holy Thursday is called Holy for a reason, because it is the day where our own holiness began to burst through the floodgates of Heaven. We must not let this opportunity pass by, we must seize it and allow it to make us holy. How we do this depends on how Christ is calling us to participate in His Passion. Our participation is intimate, and intimacy insinuates some sort of exclusivity, and so our participation is specific to us. For some this will be giving up food, for others it will be bearing the nagging of a nagging mother patiently, for some it will mean being patient with your insufferable spouse, and for others still, it will mean doing homework or household chores with more intentionalty when we really do not want to. But, whatever that looks like, it will demand a dying to ourselves.
Lastly, Holy Saturday is also a day of fasting, even though our Lord has already suffered and died. But, that’s exactly the point, our Lord just suffered and died, our Lord is still in the tomb. Our Lord is dead; so, while Good Friday has passed, while the Passion of our Lord has reached it’s culmination, the hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection has not yet been realized; and, so, we mourn the death of our Lord for another day still. And, perhaps this is a good time to review our Baptismal vows, that day when we died to our sin and were laid in the tomb with Christ, because at the Easter Vigil, we will renew them, and we want to be aware and fully present to what it is that we are vowing ourselves to.
Another thing to bear in mind is that the Triduum is the one act of Christ’s saving Passion, and this is, in fact, cause for great joy for us. It seems strange, and almost contradictory, especially with everything that I have just said, but bear with me. The Triduum, though it is marked with death and penance, is ultimately a story of joy, because through it we are brought to eternal life in Christ. We know how this all turns out, and we know that it all turns out well, for the Greatest Good. So, we must also keep a spirit of hopeful anticipation for the joys of Easter, which, at the Vigil, the Church enters into, gloriously celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord! But, until then, keep watch and bear the Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ well, and may we all grow in love and enter more deeply these Sacred Mysteries. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? To be made sharers in the Divine Life, to be perfected in love of God, and to grow in love of neighbor. Stay strong, my friends, and bear all things well. God bless, and in the Peace of Christ, have a blessed Triduum.
Know always that I am not the source of my knowledge. If there is anything good that I say, it is because I have learned from men much more knowledgeable than I am, and because the Holy Spirit has guided me in my thoughts. I am nothing before the Lord, He is everything.