Some scattered Triduum thoughts…
This evening the Three Days of awe commence. We’ve arrived at the unfathomable and dazzling depths of the Paschal Mystery, which in theo-speak refers to the Passover of Christ from death to life.
Holy Week always thrusts us into a disorienting confrontation with the Cross as the Event of events that dirties the immaculate God, sinking him into the miry, messy muck of human existence. And then! …then on the night of Easter Vigil He infuses into that miry, messy muck a superlative and unsurpassed beauty that does not simply leave behind the Cross in forgetfulness, but rather renders it as an undying memorial of self-wasting love … “I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne” (Revelation 5:6).
O Christ, you who were transfigured in glorious splendor on Mt. Tabor are now disfigured beyond all recognition on Golgotha. Save us, O Marred One!
At first glance the Passion appears to be an irredeemable mix of pure Light and gruesome darkness, a tragic rupture in God’s progressive triumph over the ruins of a fallen world. God seems to have fallen victim to the very malady man begged Him to heal. But we know, in the light of faith, that in Christ God transformed what German philosopher Georg Hegel called “the butcher block of history” into an altar of sacrifice from which the saving remedy of the nations is served in a Eucharistic Feast.
In these Three Days is unveiled God’s boundless mercy, His reckless desire to, as St. Maximus says it, “relinquish His utter transcendence” in order to take up the history of our human misery into his own existence, bleeding from our wounds and suffering under our blows. What wondrous love is this? We gave you death, you gave us life; we gave you judgment, you gave us pardon; we slapped your face in mock, you kissed our cheek in peace; we bathed you in spittle, you bathed us in living waters; we denied you, you defended us; we scourged your back with pain, you clothed us in your joy; we thrust you into the sleep of death, and in your sleep you dreamed of our eternal well-being.
Last week during Mass, as I was working out these concepts, I had a flash of insight: the Eucharist was instituted by Christ precisely as His consent to being slain by his own creation. Christ is God freely handed over, given up, poured out. I’ve not been able to stop thinking about this. In fact, yesterday I was about to drink from the Chalice at Mass and I paused for just a moment and looked at the consecrated Wine. In that Chalice was a very still, deceptively serene Drink that hid beneath its appearance the raging storm of a divine-human drama … of innocent love facing the enemy, of compassionate mercy embracing misery, of limitless wealth bearing poverty, of eternal Communion suffering abandonment, of immaculate purity risking filth, of unshakable joy knowing sorrow, of life obeying death.
And then I thought, after I had consumed — I who dare to drink this Blood must be prepared to be metabolized, to be swept up into the divine storm that rages unceasingly in the deepest abyss of our Holy Holy Holy God. In that Chalice was the whole mystery of the new Passover, the supreme epiphany of omnipotent love, the hidden presence of the FarNear. And I drank. In saying “Amen” before I consumed, I consented to God re-creating me as a gate for the “peacefully violent” Christ-storm to enter our war-weary world. Annie Dillard gives me the words I need: “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”
O salutaris Hostia,
Quae cæli pandis ostium:
Bella premunt hostilia,
Da robur, fer auxilium.
Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria,
Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria.
O, saving Victim,
Who expandest the door of heaven,
Hostile wars press,
Give strength; bear aid.
To the Triune Lord,
May there be everlasting glory;
that life without end He
to us give in our homeland.
Bl. Teresa of Calcutta for the last word:
And I believe that great love must begin in our own home first in our own heart in our own home; my next door neighbor; in the street I live; and in the town I live; and in the world because only then he will be able to spread the meaning of Eucharist. The meaning of Eucharist is “understanding love.” Christ understood that we have a terrible hunger for God. He understood that we have been created to love and so he made himself a bread of life … we must eat and drink in the Eucharist the goodness of the love of Christ of his understanding love; he also wants to give us a means, a chance to put our love for him in a living action; he makes himself the hungry not only for bread, but for love; he makes himself the naked one not only for a piece of cloth, but for that understanding love; that dignity, human dignity; he makes himself the homeless one not only for a piece of a small room, but for that deep sincere love of one another; and this is Eucharist, this is Jesus the living bread that he has come to break with you and with me.