At the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Gloria is sung and church bells are rung throughout the duration of the singing. One can feel the urgency and the vibration of the bell as it sounds out its call to attention for all to hear: Take heed, we are entering into Most Sacred Time! Something momentus is about to happen! The bell seems to demarcate the start of the Sacred Paschal Triduum. The bell announces the holy threshold when we move out of time as we know it, and into Kairos: God’s time. The events we are going to commemorate are beyond time and will be made present to us in an accentuated way. We feel the sacredness of this moment and something inside us wants to cry. The bells ring and we sing: “Glory to God in the Highest: we praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you!” The washing of feet evokes different emotions and questions our ability to humble ourselves and serve others instead of ourselves. The transfer of the Blessed Sacrament and stripping of the Altar makes us realize that at any unexpected time our lives can suddenly be stripped of everything and we can be left naked and vulnerable. We allow this stripping to create space for the Holy One to arise in place of all that may have taken His place.
The Passion of the Lord service begins with the priest prostrating himself fully on the floor in front of the Altar. Seeing him lie on the ground in his red chasuble is a dramatic depiction of the surrender that is required of all of us. “Passion” comes from the Latin “passio”, meaning passiveness and non-activity ie surrender rather than action. At this point in his life, Jesus stops his activity and ministry and does nothing but surrender to all that was to be done to him.
Jesus spent about three years preaching and teaching before being put to death. For most of that time, he was very much the doer, in command, the active one, teaching, healing, performing miracles, giving counsel, debating with church authorities, and generally, by activity of every sort, inviting his contemporaries into the life of God. For most of his public life, Jesus was actively doing something. However, from the time he walked out of the Last Supper and began to pray in Gethsemane, that activity stops. He is no longer the one who is doing things for others, but the one who is having things done to him. He is arrested, beaten, humiliated, stripped of his clothes, and eventually nailed to a cross where he dies. This constitutes his “passion”, that time in his life and ministry where he ceases to be the doer and becomes the one who has things done to him. What is remarkable is that the Christian faith teaches that we are saved more through his passion (his suffering and death) than through all of his activity of preaching and doing miracles.
Jesus said: “Anyone who wants to save his life, must lose it. Anyone who loses her life will find it.” [Matthew 16:25] There is a necessary suffering and death that cannot be avoided. Our false self must die, and this feels like losing our life, because we are so identified with our false self ie our role, title, personal identity and image, which is largely a creation of our own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much we want the Real. The Real is what religions were pointing to when they spoke of heaven, nirvana, bliss, or enlightenment. When you die to the illusion of the false self, you are choosing the Real - or union with God - over your imaginary separation from God. You are choosing the Kingdom of God over your own smaller kingdoms. Heaven is the state of union with God both here and hereafter. This requires complete and total surrender. The question is: “How much false self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?” Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying … [Extract from Fr Richard Rohr]
Spend time meditating on the Cross. Allow your body, mind, heart to be completely present to the suffering of Christ. Allow your own memories or sensations of pain, sorrow, grief. Hold them gently within the embrace of God’s presence and solidarity with human suffering. Then let this suffering go, and rest in faith that in every wound there is opportunity for healing and hope, and from every death comes new life. Remember: If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it, and the cycle of suffering continues. Transformed people transform people.
The Easter Vigil starts outside in darkness. A fire is blessed and the priest prays: “O God, bestow upon the faithful the fire of your glory, and grant that we may be so inflamed with heavenly desires, that with minds made pure, we may attain festivities of unending splendor!” The Easter candle is lit and the priest prays: “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” We all symbolically light our own candles from the Easter candle, showing that one light can light others and together we can eliminate the darkness and illuminate the world with the light of Christ. Holy Saturday is when Christ descends into hell breaking the bonds of death and setting the captives free. The tomb of Holy Saturday will become the womb of Easter Sunday. That is the promise hidden deep within every tomb.
St. Augustine taught that we must “die daily” to our small and separate sense of self. We can practice dying through meditation: We can sit to meditate with the intention to let it all go, inspired to explore what lies beyond self. We sit deliberately, with noble posture and noble attention. We breathe. Progressively, we free our awareness from sensations. We free our awareness from the ‘I’ we imputed upon the sensations and the ‘mine’ with which we tried to claim them. We relieve ourselves of all of our mistaken identifications, loosening our attachments to them, letting them go. We liberate ourselves from illusions and, cleared of all that congested weight, the burden of being a self, we surrender, entering awareness that is spacious and quiet and uncongested. We die into silence. Die to the past. Die to the future. Die to the breath. Completely let go. The silence reveals itself as refuge, as awareness that can be trusted, tenderly loving and resounding with the majesty and the mystery of the sacred.
The somber attitude of the preceding days breaks into a joyful celebration. The resurrection power of the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. This same power can restore health, strength and life to your physical body, and it can bring back life to your hopes and dreams. It can bring life to any area that may seem dormant or dead. So if you feel overwhelmed by sickness, challenges, despair, fear or worry, remember that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you! Nothing can stand against the power of God! Rise up and declare by faith, “I am restored and healed because the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in me!”
The passion of Jesus is a love-drama. It begins with Him sweating blood in a garden, and ends with Him being buried in a garden. In archetypal symbolism, gardens are for lovers. It is Jesus as lover (not Jesus as King or Magus or Prophet) who is undergoing this drama. We are likewise engaged in a drama of love, and it asks some difficult questions: ‘To love or not to love?’ At the end of our lives, how will we die? Will our hearts be angry, clinging, unforgiving, and bitter at the unfairness of life? Or will our hearts be forgiving, grateful, empathic, warm and loving, as was the heart of Jesus when he said to his Father: “Not my will but Yours be done.” This is not one major choice we face at the hour of our death; it is all the little choices we face daily. We suffer coldness, misunderstanding, unfairness, betrayal and violation of rights. In that darkness will we let go of our light? In the face of hatred will we let go of love? That’s the real drama of the Passion of the Christ, and it’s a love drama. [Extract from Fr Ron Rolheiser]
What does the voice of fear whisper to you? Fear says: “I want to make you safe.” Love says: “You are safe.” Fear says: “Give me something that I can rely upon.” Love says: Give me this moment.” Fear walks you on a narrow path, promising to take you where you want to go. Love says: “Open your arms and fly with me.” Every moment of your life, you are offered the opportunity to choose: love or fear; to tread the earth or to soar the heavens. Jesus says: “Do not be afraid for I am with you every day, till the end of time.”
Prayer of the Heart:
Father, thank you for filling me with Your Holy Spirit. I receive Your strength. I receive Your power. Let me find kindness to negate resentment. Let me stand steady in the face of pain rather than live in fear. Let me experience co-operation rather than revenge. Let me express compassion rather than indifference. May my heart connect with the realities of others so that I stay true to the undying principal of treating others as I wish to be treated. May awareness and respect pervade my thoughts, words and actions that I may live in a way that brings dignity and nobility to life, reveals love and respects freedom of being. Amen!
May we die where needed; may we be resurrected where needed; and may we rise in love!
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