By: Claire Vogel
Good news, folks: only one more week until Lent is over and the celebrations following the Easter Triduum descend upon us with all the fervor of a hundred little children racing for the last Easter egg at the Easter egg hunt. You can almost taste the impending overindulgence on chocolate/gluten/social media or whatever else has been given up for these forty days. There will be chocolate bunnies! Jellybeans! Brunches galore!
But anyway, we’re not there yet. Holy Week, like the celebration to follow, also abounds with grace. This is the sacred time set aside in which we remember and reflect on Christ’s enormous sacrifice for us. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday: the four most important days of our year as Christians. The question for us, before the feast and fanfare of the celebration of the Resurrection is: what can we do to put the “holy” in “Holy Week”?
Answer: Nothing! Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross for our very salvation did that, duh.
The better question is...what can I, a recipient of this marvelous grace, do to create the time and attitude which allows that grace to seep into my heart, impact my life, and ultimately make me a better lover of the Lord?
I’d like to offer an image for reflection as you do this—a mallet with which to tap and crack the crust that might have formed around your social media- or sweet-starved soul this Lent, to make accessways for the grace to drip and trickle and flow in.
Like a cold-water stream coming to its end in warm ocean waters (although in nature I think generally the water temperatures are the opposite, but whatever), the currents of Lent and Easter mix and blend this week, and by their contrast reveal the true purpose of the suffering we impose on ourselves during the Lenten season. We speak of this purpose when we talk about our penitential attitudes during Lent and the forty days Jesus took in the desert that we try to emulate in our own fasts. But the spirit of this purpose is what’s brought to light in Holy Week: we have been abstaining from a few good things all this time to clear our minds. Let’s not forget our purpose was to get to know Him better by this as we truck through the bitter end.
Nothing for me captures the somber, beautiful qualities of Lent as they blend into full-throated Easter joy quite so well as the Easter Vigil Mass. The Roman Missal calls it “the greatest and most noble of all solemnities.” It starts off in the dark, at 8 or 9 p.m. on Holy Saturday, and after the Easter candle is lit, a flame spreads across the church. No, it isn’t an accidental blaze triggered by too much Holy Spirit. Every congregant (above the age of 5 and responsible enough to do so) holds a candle, and the church is lit with a cozy glow as a brave cantor steps up to sing the Exsultet, only the most heavenly song I’ve ever heard, followed by seven readings and seven psalms (yes that’s right). Then, the waters blend: the Gloria is sung, and the aahh-ley-loo-yahh word is spoken once again, and the Gospel proclaiming the Resurrection is read to the faithful. Christ is risen! God is good. Mic drop. Amen.
As Lent flows into Easter this week, let’s set aside a little extra time to be present and aware of the presence of God. He’s holding out so much grace to us—grace to see, grace to understand.