Yesterday kicked off Holy Week 2018 – with palms waving, we read the Gospel, ushering Jesus into Jerusalem. By the end of the Gospel, the congregation was joining in on calls to “Crucify Him!” It was a stark reminder that in our daily lives, even when we profess joy and love for Christ, we have a tendency through our sin to also crucify Him – in our thoughts, words, and actions.
Two years ago, during Holy Week, I decided to answer the call to “write,” by setting up my blog. The journey in blogging the past couple years has been enlightening – challenging me to fully delve deeper, not just into Catholic Church teachings, but more importantly, my spirituality.
As I prepared for Lent 2018, and this Holy Week, I considered how I wanted to tackle ideas in blog posts – writing about my expectations, my desires, my hopes for a fruitful Lent. The more I contemplated Lenten journey posts, the more I realized I didn’t want to write about what I was planning on doing – at least, not at the outset of Lent. Instead, I felt a deep stirring to write about Lent after Lent was over.
Except for Holy Week.
Holy Week is special. It is different. The entire tone for this week is much more contemplative for me than the other weeks of Lent. Although I try very hard to stick with the pillars of Lent (Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving), I truly believe Holy Week gives us one final chance – a final push, as it were – to dig deeply into our relationship with Christ during the penitential season.
It gives us a chance to hone in and truly grow closer to Christ.
It allows us to recognize how we crucify Him every day of our lives, and yet, allow Him to embrace us when we seek His forgiveness.
Holy Week allows us to fall in love with the sacrifice of Christ – perhaps all over again – and to remember that, while sinful people, He still loves us and wants us to be in love with Him. It allows us to remember in order to truly accept His sacrifice for us, we must live our lives in a manner in which we invite Him in – to our thoughts, our words, and our actions.
Last year, for Holy Week, I told my spiritual director that I was unsure of what I should do as yet “something else.” I was already working my way through Nineveh 90, and struggling to come up with something “more.”
His suggestion was simply to, “Enter the tomb with Jesus.” On Good Friday, he recommended I turn off all electronics, close the blinds of the house, and truly spend the day in prayer and contemplation. I was welcome to attend the chapel’s annual Veneration of the Cross and Communion service (not the Mass, because theologically there is no Mass scheduled after Holy Thursday’s Mass), but then I could go home and spend the next day truly in silence.
I was to spend the time in prayer.
I was to spend the time in preparation.
I don’t quite remember last year’s Easter Triduum, but this year, I feel like I have begun to mentally enter the tomb already.
I have spent the better part of Lent contemplating the The Military Way of the Cross – the Stations of the Cross I wrote for military families. I have spent the better part of Lent offering daily sacrifices, rather than giving one entire “thing” up for Lent. I have spent the better part of Lent pondering Mary, and the strength in which she endured Christ’s Passion and Death, in a way no other mother on earth could possibly imagine.
The tomb is ready for Christ. This upcoming Thursday, many Catholics worldwide will gather together in a celebration and in remembrance of the Last Supper. It will be the last Mass celebrated until the Resurrection celebrations.
Friday, our chapel community will host a program on the “7 Last Words of Jesus,” as explained by our chaplain. We will then have our annual, final Stations of the Cross and Veneration of the Cross with Communion Service.
Then, we will be sent home.
And, I encourage all of my readers to take time, beginning Good Friday, to truly enter the tomb with Christ.
Turn off the television.
Use minimal technology.
Spend time with the family closest to you.
Although Christ died centuries ago, join his disciples in grieving for Him – and, in grieving for their own loss.
In quick order, we will be called to celebrate, and be joyful. But, for two days, truly enter that tomb with Christ.
Imagine the darkness.
Imagine the cold which would settle over the concrete slab.
Imagine the horror He would experience as He descended into Hell (per The Apostles’ Creed).
Imagine the grief of His followers – initially scattered to the four winds, each struggling in their individual ways to accept how they reacted to the horrors of His crucifixion, and finally coming together to find solace and comfort with each other.
Imagine the sorrow of His mother, who certainly would have been praying to God for strength to overcome the grief which must have been all-consuming.
We will celebrate His Resurrection – just as the faithful will celebrate His Second Coming! But, this week, let us dive into His sacrifice.
Let us immerse ourselves, individually, in His Passion.
Let us bathe in the pain and sorrow, as individuals, as we grieve His sacrifice.
Let us recall how our actions today – centuries later – had such a profound impact on Him even then.
And, let us take our journey of Lent – whatever it may have been this year – and see how we can build upon that in the days ahead.
Allow the personal entrance into the tomb shape the follower of Christ we want to be – one who radiates His love, His sacrifice, His mercy, toward every person we meet.
Allow Holy Week to transform us – so that we can truly say, come Easter Sunday, that we are an “Easter people,” who live as true followers of God made Man.
For more contemplation and reflection this week, I will close with some links to previously written pieces on this blog – reflecting on the Agony in the Garden, and other thoughts regarding discipleship of Christ.
How do you plan to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ this upcoming week? How will you extend that into your daily life, when the penitential season of Lent is over?