The Triduum–the three days in the church that try to capture the great mystery of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (the Paschal mystery)–will break open our hearts and pry open our eyes if we are strong enough to turn toward God.
These three days come every year. They are part of the church calendar, a cycle predictable enough to be printed like any other desk or pocket calendar. But like the seasons of the year, there can be times of tumult. A perfect storm arises when conditions are just right. Weather fronts collide, funneling chaos onto the land, and I cannot help but feel that this is what happens on these Holy Days.
If we dare, we look toward God and invite the past to reenact itself. As a congregation, we participate in the retelling of the story. We come together to wash each other’s feet and to share a meal. We walk the Stations of the Cross, and we sit in silence . . . and wait.
Simultaneously, we imagine ourselves among the disciples or in the crowd. Maybe even just a fly beside one who is choosing to betray or another struggling to do what should be done . . . or near the One choosing to forgive and breathing his last. Can we steel our strength to be the Mother watching her child be crucified? Can we handle the thunder and the silence?
It is easily too much.
Carrying the Sacrament to the side chapel after the Maundy Thursday service, the glass flagon was heavy and full. The liquid within sloshed with my steps through the darkness. There was enough light to glint from the glass and to illuminate the wine, the blood. My throat caught, and my stomach turned in the briefest of moments. The blood of our Lord and Savior. This was but a drop, and if it spilled, if I were to drop this fragile vessel, I imagined it would spill for miles. But there we were, walking softly, reverently placing the reserves onto the altar. The candlelight hushed the room and twinkled in everyone’s eyes.
Walking home, the nearly full moon was shrouded by clouds. The evening continued normally, marked by the “Open” sign at the coffee shop and the frat boys’ shouts at their houses. So many feet to wash. So many people to love.
Soon we’ll walk along the road of our small town, between a parish and chapel. People will carry a huge and heavy cross, and the fullness of time will push all bounds, trying to break into our consciousness. From Golgotha of the past to Syria of the present to the oppressed and invisible neighbor–all out of sight but very much here and now. All the pain and all the love sucked into one vortex that if we are willing will tap into the conduit of our lives. Nothing more than we can stand but enough to break us open, awake us from our numbness, set us free to love as we are commanded.
On the other side of the suffering and silence, our greatest joy awaits. Only true Love can take us there and back again, year after year, moment after moment.