Kissing the Cross

April 22, 2011

I’ve had the delight this Triduum* to spend my liturgical hours with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It’s important for me, as a liturgist, to learn about the tradition of the church that predates my own. Also, it’s a wonderful gift to celebrate our Lord’s Passion (and soon resurrection!) with my ND family. Yesterday we celebrated Maundy Thursday with the washing of feet and the Eucharist in the evening and a late night Tenebrae. Anybody who thinks young people don’t like liturgy, make a pilgrimage to ND during Triduum. There will not be an empty seat or place on the floor to kneel. I’ve never seen churches this full… seriously, never. Most of us aren’t exactly going gray yet, either (o.k. I have found one little gray hair but its gone now!).  But back to the main reflection.

I sometimes struggle with the ecumenical question. Loving the church gets hard sometimes, and that’s just on day-to-day stuff. Schism makes such love quite a bit harder, and frustrates me to the point of tears sometimes (a fact to which my poor boyfriend can attest). My confessor reminds me that schism is a sin, and should continue to break my heart, and the hearts of all people in the church (this includes the Church). But constantly breaking hearts grow heavy. And I have struggled, very much uphill, this Lenten season, and I expected Triduum to make my struggle only that much worse. But, quite the opposite, I  found my relief (dare I say, my present help in time of trouble?) this afternoon in the most unexpected of places.**

This afternoon we commemorated our Lord’s death on the cross, venerating the wood of the cross and celebrating communion.***  At the veneration of the cross, the liturgy reminded me that Easter hope dawns eternally for Christ’s pierced body the church, because we all kiss the same Cross. The Cross draws all persons baptized into the death of Christ, to adore its blessed wood. A tree of infamy, the cross looms above us all, reminding us not only of our brokenness but more importantly of the ultimate triumph of The Broken Body. The powers of this world seek to destroy that Body by starving, beating, humiliating, piercing, suffocating, and finally killing it. Yet, on this (truly) Good day, the Cross reminds us that upon its graceful branches hung our salvation, hung the answer to schism, hung the broken body that heals our wounds.

Crux Spes Unica: The Cross, our Only Hope.
Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us now, in this hour of death.

Have a holy Triduum and a truly joyful eastertide, my friends.

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*Triduum concludes Holy Week and includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday culminating in the Easter Vigil. It’s a fancy way of saying “three days,” because for Christians these are the three days in which Christ’s gift of love in the incarnation culminates in the death and resurrection.

**Yeah, not unexpected to anybody else, but I didn’t see it coming.

***For my non-RC-liturgically-formed friends, celebrating communion and the Eucharist are liturgically different. The liturgy of the Eucharist includes the entire Eucharistic Prayer, while the communion is a briefer liturgy with the distribution of already consecrated bread. The real presence is the same, the bread is the same, it’s just consecrated somewhere or somewhen else. In this case, it was consecrated at our Maundy Thursday service yesterday.

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