Holy Week: Celebrating Mystery

Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ
We find ourselves midway in Holy Week. These days have been influenced by the homily I heard on Palm Sunday. Instead of imaging ourselves walking with Christ into Jerusalem during the entrance procession, the homilist invited us to consider entering into our hearts to find Him there.
We were then asked to consider how to spend Holy Week so that like the centurion who stood facing Christ crucified and saw how he breathed his last breath, we could also declare, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" The homilist asked us two questions: What do we imagine the centurion saw in Christ’s face that he could come to this statement of belief? How might we spend time so that we could see what the centurion saw?
These two questions have qualified these days for me. Each question demands a kind of space in which my whole being has been engaged. This spaciousness around the questions has reminded me of a Japanese word, yutori. I first heard of it during an interview between Kristen Tibbett and the poet, Naomi Shihab Nye. I found the interview and re-listened to it. Nye explains that a Japanese student told her that yutori is spaciousness. "It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere, so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there you have time to look around. She gave me all these definitions of what yutori was to her, but one of them was…After you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you with its space. You don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it and it allows you to see differently."
As I now look forward to the Easter Triduum, I anticipate the days in the hope of taking the time to experience the space around the liturgies that yutori describes. We know that the Easter Triduum begins at sundown on Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord's Supper, continues with Good Friday and concludes with Easter evening prayer at sundown on Easter Sunday. Its high point is the celebration of the Easter Vigil. These days are sacred to Christians as we celebrate the core mystery of our Christian faith. During each of the liturgies, we ritualize Jesus' transition from life to death to risen life, and our own participation in that timeless mystery. To fully enter into this mystery, we need to afford ourselves both space and time.
I picked up the parish bulletin as I left the Palm Sunday liturgy and read an exceptional explanation of the Easter Triduum. The following quote from the bulletin is taken from Nathan Mitchell’s The Three Days of Pascha:
Precisely because these faith anchoring events are historical, however, they cannot be repeated or ‘reenacted.’ That is why the Church’s long tradition insists that what happened once in history passeses over into the mystery of the assembly’s liturgical/sacramental celebrations. What the Paschal Triduum actually celebrates is mystery not history; anamnesis, not mimesis. The liturgies of these days do not “take us back” to the upper room or the path to Calvary. Their ultimate purpose is not to reenact or to relive the last hours of Jesus’ life - nor to catch sight of Him emerging from the tomb at Easter’s dawning. They celebrate not what once happened to Jesus but what is happening among us as a people called to conversion, gathered in faith, and gifted with the Spirit of holiness. They celebrate God’s taking possession of our hearts at their deepest core, recreating us as a new human community broken like bread for the world’s life – a community rich in compassion, steadfast in hope, and fearless in the search for justice and peace.
We believe that Christ is the icon of the invisible God. We claim that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. This is the absolute core of our belief as Christians. It is always difficult to find the time to attend the liturgies of the Triduum. Yet, not being part of a community of believers when celebrating this extraordinary Mystery can be a deprivation. Easter is the ground of our hope. Creating the space in time and consciousness to focus on this Mystery offers such promise to us and our world if we can see as the centurion did…surely Christ is the Son of God.
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