Paul Moore: Lent brims and beckons with blossoming blessings (Part 2)
In My Father’s House / Paul Thomas Moore
This column continues the theme from the March 13 edition of The Catholic Post on the many “roses of condolence” I have experienced in Lent, as spiritually challenging as the season’s “thorns of repentance” can be.
I discussed how my feelings about Lent are inextricably tied to memories of enjoying various family traditions such as pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, and the wearing of the green on St. Patrick’s Day. I bring out these precious memories to leaven Lent a little, and I don’t believe Heaven would object.
As well, of course, the first stirrings of spring occur during Lent. Thinking of it, one’s spirit takes an almost involuntary deep breath in.
THRESHOLD OF HOLY WEEK
The March 13 column stopped its progression through Lent at the threshold of Holy Week.
You are holding (or reading online) the Palm Sunday edition of The Catholic Post. As Sunday is the first day of the church week, Palm Sunday marks the official start of Holy Week.
Even as children, we could feel the sense of “something” about to transpire as we filed into church and silently picked up our palms. The sacred play was moving into its third act.
Mom would warn us that it was going to be a long Mass and we would have to be patient. Normally we would not have met these words with enthusiasm, but on this day, the sense of significance was clear even to us, silencing any “Aw, Moms” we might have been tempted to utter. The mystery — the divine mystery to which we all knew the ending — intensified as “Hosanna to the king of kings,” was followed by the heartbreaking contrast of “Crucify him!”
On Monday of Holy Week the readings came back to hope with the story of Lazarus, only to return on Tuesday down the trail of tears to Calvary with Jesus dipping the morsel and symbolically handing over his life with the words, “Do quickly what you have to do.”
Although I don’t remember ever going to the Mass of Chrism on Holy Tuesday as a child, we understood in general terms that the bishop and priests came together to renew and strengthen themselves for the job of strengthening us. On the following day, the reference in the name of Holy or “Spy” Wednesday was clear — Judas again.
In this way the ebb and flow of Holy Week encircled our consciousness with liturgical repetition and foreshadowing, bringing us to . . . The Triduum. Even the word sounds like a bell tolling.
On Holy Thursday, the washing of the feet always piqued our interest — particularly if there were any kids we knew whose mothers had offered them up for it.
SOMBER AND SILENT
Then it was Good Friday. The atmosphere at our house was very much like the 11th of November, Veterans Day (called Remembrance Day in Canada). Mom had four brothers who had served overseas, one of whom returned invisibly wounded by the experience, and she was very somber on Nov. 11. Similarly, on Good Friday, as we remembered Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we were expected to play quietly, and she didn’t want to hear any fighting.
But even on Good Friday, God is aware of his children’s need for hope along the way, and we savored the somber treat of our hot cross buns. Mom explained the symbolism of the traced icing cross (if not that the spices baked into the buns represent those used to embalm Christ after his death).
Then came Holy Saturday — the silence of the tomb, and the day we got to know what life would be like without Christ.
If Lent is, as Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty described it, a “mysterious mixture . . . of darkness and light,” then Holy Saturday is a pause on the precipice, a time of waiting for the signal of which way to turn.
That first Holy Saturday, no one knew the wait would end soon. Without that sure faith, I don’t think I would find Lent very charming at all. Instructive place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Thank God, the best is yet to come.
PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.