We have journeyed through another Lenten season, and been given another chance to grow more deeply in love with God and with one another, another season where finding the joy and comfort of God’s presence in rituals and the hope that Spring can bring.
Last night, Holy Saturday, I attended service at the Holy Cross Abbey with the Cistercian monks. Never having attended Lenten services at a monastery, I was not sure what the experience would bring. I felt like I had stepped back in time, in a wonderful way; the historical richness and the ever present reality providing a sacred collusion. There was darkness, candles, prayers, chanting and singing in Latin and English, kneeling, bowing, and the Eucharist. It was delicious even as it was long – over two hours. The monks do not do anything quickly and in this world of immediate gratification, I was afforded the ‘time’ to slow down, breathe, and attune my being to the Divine Presence permeating the place.
All this pausing got me to thinking about the reality of this holy season and about living a committed and intentional spiritual journey. The shadowy, yet hopeful Saturday Vigil Mass reminded me that we truly are a people on the Way…in transition on this journey towards God and each other. We are a pilgrim people who must live between the tension of two days, Good Friday (suffering and death) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection and new life).
We are a Good Friday People; all we need to do is look around at all the pain and suffering in our world and in our hearts. But the glorious news is that is not the final word for we are an Easter people. Some 25 years ago a friend of mine reminded me in so many words that we are an Easter People. He said, “Niles, it’s Friday…but Sunday’s a comin’!”
We must all face the dailiness of life, the Good Friday moments, the smaller pains and frustration and the larger tragedies that can beset us. These Good Friday times are painful, no doubt, but they serve a purpose of molding us into the image and likeness of Jesus; they all but force us to deeper intimacy with God and a deeper reliance upon divine grace rather than human sensibilities.
Yes, we must go through (and not around) Good Friday for in our suffering, we somehow commingle with the suffering of others and with Jesus, bringing some sense of redemption to our pain, knowing we are not alone in it. We become more connected to Jesus and to those whose lives are permeated with suffering – the addicted, the homeless, the imprisoned, the poor – and we become in some way more human.
Good Friday teaches us some of the ebb and flow of grace. But we must hold out, we must remember that Good Friday is not the final word, Easter Sunday is. The cross is not the final word of silence, the Great Silence of the empty tomb is the final word and that Word echoes throughout human history and throughout our own personal histories with this truth: there is resurrection!
Our emptiness, our addictions, our pain and sickness, our loneliness and poverty (even our death) are not the last word from the world; yes, they are indeed a word, but just a word. The resurrection of Jesus is the Final, all glorious, Word spoken to us. The living Word is our final statement. Hear God speak to you this truth: “Death is not the end…addiction is not the end…hopelessness is not the end. I AM the End that has no end; I AM the Beginning; I AM the Hope and Love for which you long.”
Let’s celebrate this Truth together, for we are indeed an Easter People – a people living in the creative tension of the already and the not yet of the Resurrection. So this Easter, I pray we all are deepening in our love for and experience of God and the power of Resurrection and new life.
So let us sing for Joy this sacred season for Christ is risen, risen indeed!