Saturday 31 March 2018
I have always told my congregations at the start of Lent: This is not a time to give up chocolate, sugar or TV; it’s a start, but lent is a time for giving up sin and building virtues. If we are short-tempered, we must seek hard to practice patience; if we engage in calumny or detraction, we must keep a still tongue and seek something good to say about those we would rather criticise; if we are slothful, we must demand hard work from ourselves, for if we don’t get to the end of Lent and are not a changed person. If we don’t more clearly image Christ, we have failed somewhat. So how did your Lent go? Are you recognisably different now than you were six weeks ago? Even in some small way, recognisably different? I hope I am, but I doubt it.
How sad it is that the Easter ceremonies to which Lent leads are so badly attended these days. The great renewal of the Church we were promised at Vatican II has never come about; all we can point to is having more laity engaged in parish and Diocesan-based tasks. Having taken them from their proper apostolate of bringing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy to bear in society, we replace them with worker priests, removing both priests and laity from their authentic, divinely appointed roles. And no mtter how many ecclesial tasks we give the laity, when the Triduum comes around our Churches are not filled.
And yet Holy Thursday encompasses central Mysteries of The Faith: The Real presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist; the Sacrifice that saves us, and the sacramental union with God in Holy Communion that He gives to us, and which comes to us though the priesthood which He ordained to make all of this preset and possible as a memorial of Him. We claim to believe that the Holy Eucharist is the Real Presence of God according to His Word: “I am the Living Bread which has come down from Heaven...”(Jn.6; Matt.26v26); we claim to believe that the Holy Eucharist perpetuates His Sacrifice on the Cross according to His word: “This is My Body given up for you...My Blood, which is shed for you” (Lk.22v19-20); we claim to believe the Holy Eucharist brings Heaven to earth since it brings Christ to earth -and wherever God is, Heaven is, and yet we ignore the Holy Eucharist on the very day Our Lord gifted It to us as His presence, Sacrifice and sacrament of unity with Him -and through Him, with one another. Many seem to have we forgotten that since every Holy Mass brings Heaven to earth we do not need to die to go to Heaven; we only need to come to Mass. Indeed to come to Mass is to come to Heaven, and thus to absent ourselves from Mass is to absent ourselves from heaven –and who wants that?
Good Friday is generally better attended; even many lapsed folk seem to recognise something special about Good Friday (“God’s Friday”), and turn up to acknowledge and celebrate His saving Passion. How could we not? On Good Friday Our Lord stretches our His hands on the Cross to say “This is how much I love you…will you not stay follow Me? I suffered intense anxiety in Gethsemane in presenting Myself before the face of My All-Holy Father carrying the shame of every one of your sins; I suffered the scourging at the pillar where My skin was ripped by welts embedded with bone, that you may have forgiveness for your sins of the flesh; My head is crowned with thorns to obtain forgiveness of your bad thoughts and attitudes; I am struck with blows and mocked that you might have strength to stand before the ridicule of the world and proclaim Me; I carry the wood of the Cross that by rising from falls under its weight of your sins, you may rise from mortal sin and be strengthened the earthly struggles of life; I endured the suffocation of crucifixion and the pains of death that you may have forgiveness for all of your sins and rise again to the life of grace. How can you doubt that I will welcome you back and forgive all your repented sins? See how much I love you. Who else has suffered for love of you as I have? I gave you My Life, My Love, My Mercy –you have prepared a cross for Me. I brought you from slavery to sin to the heights of grace: you have prepared a cross for me. Come to Me all you who labour, and you will find rest for your souls. Give me your sins, that I may have the pleasure of forgiving them. Leave your sins behind; become a new creation in Me. Come to me, and I will give you rest.
Holy Saturday we rest with Christ and wait to celebrate our share in His transfigured, Risen Body: we hear Him tell the Story of Salvation from the Fall to the Exodus and thence to Jerusalem; we recommit ourselves to Him by our baptismal promises; we welcome Him and heaven onto the altar; we offer the very sacrifice of His Body and Blood by which we are redeemed and sacramentally unite ourselves to Him in Holy Communion a spiritual intimacy greater than the physical union of husband and wife. How could we not desire to be present with the community on this Most Holy Night which brings the glorious new day; a day which stretches out before us the glory of heaven and our share in the eternal life, happiness and peace of the Most Holy Trinity in the company of saints, singing Holy, Holy, Holy…Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis!
PS. Please excuse typing and syntax errors: I cut and paste too much and cannot type to begin with!