THIS IS THE NIGHT THAT IS AS BRIGHT AS DAY
Brothers and Sisters,
When I was a child, I didn’t like Holy Week. I thought it was awkward, it was sad, it was uncomfortable to hear about the suffering of Christ. My parents took my brother and myself to all the events of Holy Week: Passion Sunday, Stations on Wednesday, Holy Mass on Thursday, Good Friday liturgy, Holy Saturday vigil, and Holy Mass on Easter Sunday, too. It wasn’t the amount of time or events that I didn’t like; it was the uncomfortable stories.
As I grew up, I learned more about why these liturgies are so uncomfortable. Sure, Holy Prophet Isaiah and the Gospels speak of the immensity of Christ’s torture and pains (see especially Isaiah 52:14); that piece alone is enough to make anyone want to turn away.
However, I have come to believe that the weight of uncomfortability is that the Passion story is convicting for each of us. The whole Paschal Mystery – the suffering, death, and Resurrection – happened because of both Original Sin and (more to the point) each of us continuing to sin. That’s painful; it was because of me that Christ suffered and died. It makes me sad.
That’s a great start, however, to conversion. Perhaps you are familiar with the Christian art called “pieta.” These are paintings and sculptures of Blessed Mother holding the dead body of Christ her Son after the Crucifixion. There are two purposes to the pieta: firstly, it is a mirroring/opposing art to the more famous “Madonna and Child” art wherein Blessed Mother is holding the newborn baby Christ; secondly, the pieta asks us to look at the saddened Mother Mary as she says to us “look what you have done.”
That’s harsh! That’s uncomfortable and awkward. I think that is painful to see. Yet, it is necessary. After we internalize that we are the cause of the Fall, we can then see that we are also the reason for the Resurrection: for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that all who believe in Him might have eternal life” (John 3:16). We caused the need for a savior and God gave us Himself because He wanted to save us. The Father wants to give us everlasting happiness in Heaven, but that cannot happen without both the suffering of Christ and our conversion.
With those two things, then, “the night is as bright as day; dazzling is the night and full of gladness (Exsultet). Holy Week is neither dark nor dreary. It is the finishing moments of a great race, the final seconds of the most maddening basketball game, it is the shootout at the end of a tied hockey game, the tiebreaker at the end of the tennis match. Easter morn will show us the victor.
God be near,