‘How can you refuse him now?’

As He hung there on the tree

He prayed for you and He prayed for me.

There was no one his pain to ease,

Before he died, he faintly cried,

Father forgive them please.

After arriving home exhausted on Holy Thursday, I fell asleep for about an hour and then received a text from a client who was having some issues with their email. I had wanted to go back to sleep until the next morning and deal with it then, but I couldn’t sleep and got up to call the 24-hour support provided by the web and email hosting company. After two hours, we felt we resolved what we could and I got off the phone with them shortly before 2 am and tried to get back to sleep. I was wide awake so I watched TV for a short while to help my mind come down from the whirlwind it had been on for the previous 2 hours. In hindsight, I should have prayed.

I awoke on Good Friday at 8 am and realized that what we *thought* had been resolved hadn’t and got back on the phone with the support people for another two hours. By the end of the two hours, again we felt we had resolved the issue. Later that morning, I discovered that the issue *still* hadn’t been resolved. This was causing a great deal of anxiety for my client, and for me. We were doing what we could with the hosting company, but we were dependent on them for much of the troubleshooting and to find a solution.

We went to the 3 pm Stations of the Cross that afternoon and as I sat down, I prayed for a few moments to be still. I prayed that I could shut off the outside world and be immersed in the story of the Passion of the Christ as we walked through the 14 Stations of the Cross. I felt at peace and free from the anxiety that had plagued me earlier in the day. While I was tired, I felt alert and relaxed at the same time.

As the Stations finished and we left the Church, I went back into anxiety mode trying to determine what would need to happen next in terms of helping my client. Throughout the day, I had realized that this experience was one of ‘small suffering’. It was one in which I needed to stay centered and focused. I needed to maintain my composure and not let my anxiety get the better of me. At the same time, I would need to try and find the balance between contemplating Christ’s time on the cross and my practical daily experiences that were presenting themselves.

Later that afternoon, my prayers were answered as I received a text from my client to inform me that the hosting company had finally resolved the problem we were having. He was frustrated with the whole experience, but knew that I had done all I could and had felt comfortable with the idea that there were some configuration issues well beyond our knowledge and that the hosting company was entirely responsible for ensuring that they needed to be correct. I was able to finish cooking dinner and get ready to head back to the Church for the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord.

The Liturgy of the Word was beautiful, but I was particularly moved by the second part, the Adoration of the Holy Cross. The first time I’d experienced this, I thought it unusual and – truthfully – a little weird. The idea of holding up in honor, a crucifix, seemed unnecessary to me. I went ahead with it in past years, but – in keeping with the Holy Thursday appreciation of ‘experiencing’ the Triduum instead of just merely ‘participating’ – this year was different. Earlier in the service, the Priest had given a beautiful homily and one phrase jumped out at me:

Without the Cross, there can be no resurrection

I had heard this phrase countless times before and I knew what it meant. I understood completely that to fully enjoy the good in life, we have to also experience the bad. Often times, the good can only come from clawing our way through the bad. The Shawshank Redemption, adapted from a book written by Stephen King, provides a beautiful – yet also gross – analogy of this when Andy, (warning – spoiler alert!) the character played by Tim Robbins, claws his way through a 1/2 mile long tunnel of raw sewage to find his freedom at the other end as he escapes from prison.

Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to. Five hundred yards… that’s the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.

None of us has found true happiness in our lives without some form of suffering. The two go hand in hand. In the case of Christ, He suffered the horrific scourging and then a painful death on the cross in order that He would be resurrected. Without the Cross, there can be no resurrection.

Christ lived the prophecy and prayed for each and every one of us. He took on the sins of the world so that we may be free.

He was spurned and avoided by people,

a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,

one of those from whom people hide their faces,

spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

 

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,

our sufferings that he endured,

while we thought of him as stricken,

as one smitten by God and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our offenses,

crushed for our sins;

upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,

by his stripes we were healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep,

each following his own way;

but the LORD laid upon him

the guilt of us all.

 

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted

and opened not his mouth;

like a lamb led to the slaughter

or a sheep before the shearers,

he was silent and opened not his mouth.

Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,

and who would have thought any more of his destiny?

When he was cut off from the land of the living,

and smitten for the sin of his people,

a grave was assigned him among the wicked

and a burial place with evildoers,

though he had done no wrong

nor spoken any falsehood. – Isaiah 53: 3-9

It is, therefore, important that we recognize the significance of the Cross in Christ’s willingness to die. Christ hung on the Cross so that our sins may be forgiven.

Behold the wood of the Cross,

on which hung the salvation of the world.

Without the Cross, there can be no resurrection.

Lent…I get it – finally!

Let me clarify – its not so much that I didn’t ‘get’ it, but that I hadn’t yet fully ‘experienced’ it in its fullness. For most of the Lenten season this year, I felt busy and distracted. It wasn’t the deep, meaningful and transformative experience that I had hoped it would be. That is, until this past Thursday.

For the past several years, our family has participated in the Triduum. Its a challenge for our young children, but they always get something out of it and its beautiful to witness. Last year, our son was giddy and overwhelmingly delighted when he declared ‘Mom, its the light of Christ!’ as the candles were slowly lit at the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral.

This year we began the Triduum by attending the Thursday Mass of the Last Supper where we, as Catholics, believe that Christ institute the Eucharist. This makes it a very Holy event for Catholics. There is, however, another very unique and special element to this Mass. At this Mass, 12 disciples of the Church are chosen to have their feet washed by the Priest as he represents Christ at the Mass, just as Christ washed the feet of his disciples at The Last Supper. He’s going to hate me for even saying this, but this year my husband was chosen to be one of those in our Parish who would have their feet washed. Its a very special experience usually recognizing those in the Parish who have exemplified what it means to be a disciple in the Parish community. I was very excited for my husband when he was chosen. As a fairly shy individual who doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, this was something about which there was some apprehension. I was very thankful that he chose to be one of the disciples.

After the homily, the twelve disciples are invited up and are seated in chairs facing those present in the sanctuary. The Priest slowly washes the feet of each disciple and gives them each a special blessing. As my husband walked to the front, I sat in the pew with our children – holding the hand of each on either side of me. Our daughter leaned over and said to me ‘You married a good man.’ The tears began to flow freely. At the same time, my son reached up and wiped away the tears as they flowed down my cheek. I thought about my husband’s sister who passed away this past May and felt her presence there with us as she, too, witnessed this beautiful experience.

Its a beautiful ritual. When the time came to wash my husbands feet, I could see my husband overcome with emotion. I was already teary and kept quietly saying to myself, ‘Thank you, Jesus, for my husband.’ Our daughter was right, I had married a good man. Like any of us, he struggles – but he has a good and kind heart and he works hard to be aware of his shortcomings. Isn’t that all we can ask of a spouse?

As the Mass continued and I received the Eucharist, I felt the presence of Christ in a strong and powerful way. I know He is always there, but sometimes I feel Him there more than others.

After receiving the Liturgy of the Eucharist was complete, the Transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament began as the Priests, Deacons, and Altar Servers began to process around the Church with the Body of Christ. As this began, I felt the Holy Spirit wash over me and I began to cry. I thought about what was to happen to Christ as he would be scourged and crucified, and I began to weep. As I wept, I said ‘I’m sorry.’ over and over and over and over in my mind.

While the procession was taking place, we sang:

Pange, lingua, gloriosi

Corporis Mysterium,

Sanguinisque pretiosi,

Quem in mundi pretium

Fructus ventris generosi

Rex effudit gentium.

Which translates to:

Of the glorious body telling,

O my tongue, its mysteries sing,

And the blood, all price excelling,

Which the world’s eternal king,

In a noble womb once dwelling,

Shed for this world’s ransoming.

Its a beautiful piece – its definitely worth the listen.

The procession continued out of the Sanctuary and outside to our Family Center where we used to worship prior to our Church being built. Some began to talk as we were outside the sanctuary, but a few continued to sing, and more and more began to join until all were quiet again other than our singing. As we arrived in the Family Center and the choir finished singing we knelt in silence in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I continued in my tears. They had subsided somewhat as we processed, but the feeling had stayed with me.

As I thought about my tears – about my weeping – I realized that this is what Jesus wanted. Not that He wants for us to be sad, but He wants for us to be aware. We can walk through our lives – and the rest of the Liturgical year – forgetting or taking for granted what He did for us. But, on Holy Thursday, He helped me to remember and to feel the pain at the thought of His immeasurable suffering. It was at that moment I realized, ‘I get it.’ I had always understood what He had done, but it was during the Mass that I really got to experience it. It was a beautiful gift – a beautiful grace that I will treasure always.

I’m wide awake

I’m wide awake

Wide awake

I’m not sleeping

Oh, no, no, no