A strange time is Easter Saturday...a deep breath of quiet after the purgative solemnity of Good Friday, and (for those of us who enjoy the Triduum as a sort of cathartic liturgical mini-series) a time to keep a willfully straight face before the jubilation of Easter Sunday, as if we didn't know how it were all going to turn out. The Teacher has been laid in a borrowed tomb, and for all they knew that first Triduum, that would be the end of it.
We must embrace the Passion to experience the Resurrection, said a friend of mine yesterday afternoon, and as I served as a church usher during Veneration of the Cross, I had ample time to ponder our wonderfully wacky Catholic expression of this truth: people lining up to kneel in front of a humongous cross and kiss it. (Good Friday is great for prostration opportunities; it starts with our scarlet-clad priests tossing themselves face-down at the foot of the barren altar, a perfect storm of high-style Catholic glory and humility.) I had time to observe various Veneration techniques--a reverent head-butt, a tender splinter-risking kiss, a gentle touch of the fingertips. Kiss the instrument of torture and execution; without it, no redemption, no revelation of fathomless love, no intrepid Brother to show us the way ahead to everlasting life with the Father.
At such a time, unless epic sorrow and misfortune have recently paid a visit, it is easy to feel ashamed of one's whinings about one's own puny "crosses to bear." In fact, our Lord's sufferings have long been used by nuns and Irish mothers and the like, to put the kibosh on such self-indulgence. "Offer it up!" (I have sometimes wondered if the Lord really wants such offerings...imagine a metaphysical in-box loaded up with daily mountains of dental pain, car alarms, and delayed lunchtimes...wouldn't he rather we offered up things like carousel rides and massages and vanilla thick shakes?)
But I am going to "try to try" my friend's advice to embrace the Passion, even if my passion involves such mundane components as perpetual debt, peeling paint, a leaky roof and a brain-soup of acrid neurotransmitters instead of a crown of thorns. The debt in particular rubs me sore...I tried to imagine it taking shape into our big altar cross, wondered if I could kneel and kiss that impacted pile of credit card balances incurred during years-past dismal emergencies...what has the Passion of the Debt to offer in the way of salvation? Perhaps nothing more than the possibility of compassion--for every other poor soul blown sideways through life who has managed to dig himself in too deep, not do anything "right," not buy low and sell high. As it is, I tend to hoard stories of people more screwed-up than we are, and mull them over as delicacies. (Chapter 11, eh? We're not that bad! And at least we didn't get one of those balloon mortgages, even if we will pay off our fixed-rate re-fi at age 71!) This raises the distinct possibility that, if I had lived in Jerusalem in 33 AD, I would have looked up and said, "Well, at least I didn't claim to be King of the Jews!", and gone on about my business.
So...having kissed the Cross, we wait and wonder and hope.
Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the World. -- Good Friday liturgy