Just a few more hours are left in Lent, as I write these words. (Although if you want to get a really intriguing and confusing conversation going, just ask any semi-knowledgeable Catholic when Lent ‘begins’ and ‘ends’.
I guarantee: You won’t get much of a satisfying answer, since the ‘40 days’ of Lent are stretched out over 46 actual calendar days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.)
Sometimes I wonder, though, whether we get caught up in such trivial details because we can’t handle the profound mystery of the three days that follow: Triduum.
We begin this evening, with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – to my mind, one of the most beautiful liturgies of the year. It includes that pesky ‘footwashing’ moment…when we hear how the Lord modeled the servant’s heart that he wishes to evoke in each of us…and when some of us actually consent to have our own feet washed (in public, no less!).
Before long, we’ll encounter another wonderful and troubling sight: God made present to us, in the form of bread and wine…transformed into Christ’s own body and blood. Talk about a mystery!
No sooner are we asked to wrap our minds and hearts around THAT reality…than we are then asked to consume this very God…to take the Holy One in…and let God mingle with our own molecules.
It’s not just a Triduum encounter, of course. It happens every week, every day, every time we celebrate Mass. But the rich liturgies of the Triduum seem to heighten the reality of the moment for me…and perhaps for all of us. God seems more easily discerned in the ‘thin times’ of these three (or is it four?) holy days.
The reality is heightened…and the mystery is deepened.
But do we ever pause long enough, to let the mystery of Jesus settle into our hearts? Triduum is a great time to do just that – to sit a spell, and take it all in.
As Peter Kreeft points out in his intriguing little book, Jesus Shock:
The Greek word used to describe everyone’s reaction to [Jesus] is thauna, ‘wonder.’ That was the reaction of His enemies, who killed Him; of His disciples, who worshiped Him; and even of agnostics, who went away shaking their heads and muttering, “No man ever spoke like this man,” and knowing that if He didn’t stop being what He was and saying what He said, then eventually they would have to side with either His killers or His worshipers. For Jesus-shock breaks your heart in two and forces you to choose which half of your heart you will follow.
So if you feel your heart breaking as you observe these holy days of Triduum, that’s probably a good thing. It means that this Jesus, this ‘wonder’, is indeed alive…and is stirring something up in you.
Then comes the question: Which half of your heart will you follow?
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.