Receiving the Eucharist with the Proper Disposition

Father Michael Schmitz has one of the most effective campus ministries in the country at the University of Minnesota.  He tells a story about back when he was in the seminary in the late 1970s.  Though we wouldn’t do it today, back then his particular seminary used regular loaves of bread for Holy Communion. During the distribution of the Eucharist the priest would break off pieces and give them to the people when they came up to the altar.  Though they tried their best, there were always crumbs that would fall to the floor.  One of the seminarians would stay in the chapel after Mass every day and quietly and reverently kneel down and eat all the crumbs off of the floor.  One day Schmitz asked him why he did that, and the answer was something that he would never forget.

real presenceThe seminarian had spent a year in China as a missionary.  He heard a true story about the days when the Communists first took over, and how they would go into churches and ransack everything.  One day they attacked a Catholic Church.  They took down all the statues and broke them to into pieces.  They smashed out all of the stain glass windows, and toppled the altar.  Then they took the tabernacle and through it out the back door.  The priest watched in horror as it hit the ground and all of the consecrated hosts were scattered.  There was nothing he could do.  The soldiers had arrested him and locked him in a tool shed in back of the church.  The priest was in there for days, as three young Chinese soldiers stood guard with rifles.  He kept an eye out for the scattered hosts as he prayed, asking that God would somehow send deliverance.

That evening, once it was dark, he saw a little girl, about 10 years old, outside.  She hid behind the trees and bushes so that the guards wouldn’t see her.  Then she kneeled down and picked up one of the sacred hosts with her mouth.  She slowly and reverently consumed the host and left.  The children were taught that they could never touch the Blessed Sacrament, and they could only receive once a day.  So she returned each evening.  Darting in and out between the shadows.  And each night she would kneel down and consume one of the hosts.

The priest knew how many hosts had been in the tabernacle.  And he watch as the girl returned every night until there was only one host left.  The priest kept an eye on that host from the window of the shed, and he also kept an eye on the guards.  That night he saw the little girl again.  She was quiet, fast and very careful not to be noticed by the soldiers.  She knelt down and consumed the very last host, and as she got up, she tripped and fell.  The guards heard her and rushed over.  Then they beat the poor little girl to death with the butts of their rifles.  With tears in his eyes, the seminarian said, “That’s why I do it.  That’s why I eat the crumbs off the floor every day.  I never forgot that story, and ever since then, there’s nothing more precious to me than the Blessed Sacrament.”

In the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, in what is known as the Bread of Life Discourse, are some of the most profound words in all of scripture. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  Jesus told the Jews that he is the living bread that came down from heaven, and that whoever eats this bread will live forever.  And the bread that He will give is his flesh for the life of the world.

The Jews understood this very literally, and that’s why most of them left and went back to their families and former ways of living.  They said, “This is a hard saying, who can accept it?”  Jesus didn’t try to explain that he was just speaking symbolically.  No, he meant exactly what he said.  The Church has understood from the beginning that the Bread of Life refers to the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  The New Testament scriptures make this clear, and so does the history and testimony of the early church.

Saint Justin, around the year 145, explained what the Church believes about the Eucharist: “We call this food Eucharist, and no one is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration, and is hereby living as Christ has enjoined.  For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught by his apostles, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic Prayer set down by him, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus.” The Eucharist is indeed the “Bread of Life,” and by it we are nourished for all eternity.

At Mass, the King of the universe comes down from heaven, onto the altar and into you and me.  When we receive the Bread of Life with the proper disposition, we are changed forever.  Disposition is an attitude of mind and heart.  Let me share with you an example of someone who had the proper disposition.  One Saturday morning, I was at Mass sitting in a pew beside a young boy in the second grade who was receiving his first Holy Communion that day.  He had missed receiving his first Holy Communion with his class.  His father was sitting on the other side of him……When the time came, the young boy went up to receive Communion.  He bowed reverently, received in his hands and consumed the sacred host.  When he returned to his pew, he knelt and prayed.  I knelt down next to him.  After several minutes his father turned to him and asked, “Son, do you feel any different now that you have received your first Holy Communion?”  The boy turned and looked his father in the eye and said, “Yes, Dad, I do feel different.  I feel very different.  I feel God inside.”

That young man received Communion with the proper disposition, the attitude of mind and heart that leads to eternal life.  Saint Cyril, in the 4th century, said that the Christian who consumes the Bread of Life becomes a “Christbearer,” one body and blood with him and the covenant is sealed.  Then we are sent out of the church to be what we are called to be – a sacrament, a visible sign of God’s invisible grace for the whole world to see, and know and draw closer to him.  This is the proper disposition.  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  This is why we do it.

Deacon Greg Ollick is a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and teaches in the Catholic Catechesis Certificate Program for Saint Joseph’s College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

United in Christ

IMG_1158Do we come to Mass to worship God and offer sacrifice? Or do we come to Mass to be part of a community and share a meal? The answer is both. The liturgy contains within it both a vertical and a horizontal dimension, and these are related to each other.

The vertical dimension of the liturgy refers to each person’s individual relationship with God. Each of us comes to the liturgy as a unique person. We come to offer these individual lives to God the Father, through Jesus the Son. I offer my life, contrite for my sin, to the Father in heaven. Jesus mediates this offering for me. Uniting my offering to that of Jesus enables my offering to be accepted by God the Father. The Father accepts my offering and returns my life to me full of grace, united with Jesus in Holy Communion.

The horizontal dimension of the liturgy refers to each person’s relationship to those with whom they are worshipping. This should be considered in the broadest of terms, that is,  not only those present, but to all of humanity, and all the angels and saints, as well. In the liturgy, bread and wine are offered and shared, and in the sharing of the elements, a unity results. The shared elements, by virtue of the sacrificial offering, are the Body and Blood of Christ.

The unity, then, is not a result of the act of sharing, but rather of the fact that each individual is united to Jesus Christ, both in the offering of themselves to the Father with Christ, and in the reception of Holy Communion. We are not united by common interests or similar tastes, or simply because we happen to belong to the same parish community. We are united in Christ, the strongest of bonds.

Carmina Chapp is Associate Director of Online Theology Programs for Saint Joseph’s College.

The New and the Return of the New

Two Sundays for the price of one blog post! Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, a feast for the Church to recognize Christ’s ever new call to renewal. The Scripture readings for last Sunday present an interconnected web inaugurating a new reality. Like so much in Christianity, Pentecost has its roots in Judaism. The Jewish festival celebrates the Lord’s gift of the Torah to Moses. That is why, when the Holy Spirit descends and inspires the Apostles to speak in new tongues, Jews throughout the Diaspora recognize their own languages.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God. (Acts 2:4-11)

Jews and converts, the native and newly-arrived, Parthians, Romans, and Libyans—each heard his own language. What they hear the other readings illuminate: the Lord’s spirit sustains the world (Psalm 104), the Mystical Body of Christ (I Cor. 12), the spiritual foundations for new life in Christ (Galatians 6), and Christ’s promise of the Spirit—which proceeds from Him and God the Father—to the Church (John 15 & 20).

So at one level the Spirit’s presence at Pentecost recalls previous knowledge—God’s omnipresence. Yet Andrew Kim reminds us the list of nations in Acts 2 declares a new reality: that God’s other people fall within the divine vision, too. Kim:

This is the God who transforms those that society deems to be “no people” into a chosen people. This is the God of a universal covenant and a salvation so far reaching and complete that it flows through and beyond the simplistic binaries of human schemes as a great river crushing through straw or a mighty thunder overcoming a guilty silence. This is the God who is author of the human person.

The “no-people” category is a product of human limitations. In reality, there are God’s people and God’s other people, and even these two categories, I suspect, merge to form a unity the more closely one approaches the divine point of view. Admittedly, the reality of unity remains greatly obfuscated by the conditions of the world. However, this is the fault not of religion, but of sin.

St. John’s gospel indicates this as well as the new spiritual reality that is the Church. Not merely a collection of people, the Church because of and through the Spirit includes all. Therefore, the Church is made ever new because the very notion of its membership—who’s “in” and who is not—the Spirit itself remakes. This inclusivity recognizes differences instead of obliterating them. That is the gift of St. Paul’s message to the Corinthians. We are all parts of Christ’s body and we necessarily do not all do the same thing. Our gifts and talents must be brought to the Church’s service, but it stands to reason that what my colleagues accomplish might differ noticeably from what I can do. Kim’s commentary concludes the point—it is human sinfulness that prevents us from recognizing this intrinsic unity. It is already there—we just cannot yet see it fully. God already does, and thus, as John 20 indicates, the Spirit convey God’s Word to us.

Yet how might we keep this vision and Scriptural witness before us? Back in my Calvinist days I suppose I would have reiterated some vague point about divine sovereignty: God keeps in faith whom God will. Now a Catholic (since 1992!) I see a much more practical and quite frankly universal way to recall the Spirit’s inclusivity and novelty: the Rosary. Twice a week—Wednesday and Sunday—the Glorious Mysterious are recited. The third of these is…the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Following meditations on the Resurrection (there’s something new!) and the Ascension (wherein Christ leaves the earthly realm), the meditations on Pentecost lend themselves to the consideration of novelty and the Spirit’s invigorating presence. Vatican II and The New Evangelization inspired by the Council demonstrate on the macrocosmic level what the Rosary reiterates at the microcosmic: that the Spirit ever renews, and thus the hum-drum of our daily lives radiate with God’s presence. As one post-Rosary prayer beseeches, that through our Rosary meditations: “may we imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.” Unity and the spirit of discovery provide the foundations for evangelization and charity.

This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Sunday. The Spirit’s persistent call to, and offering of, the new—new ways of speaking, hearing, and acting—finds wonderful expression in Christianity’s most recognizable, yet inscrutable, teaching. Yet, again, the Scriptures make this very clear. God can, has, and does speak directly to people He chooses (Deuteronomy 4:32-40). The Psalmist (#33) celebrates both those whom God chooses to be His Own as well as all creation. Through ways general and specific God’s presence and power are made known. In a reference that surely recalls Pentecost Sunday, St. Paul reminds the Romans that through adoption we in Christ’s spirit are God’s children, too (Romans 8:14-17). (Jews, Paul thus implies, remain God’s children, too, thus brushing aside any concerns about possible contradictions between Christian Trinitarianism and Jewish monotheism.)

 

Stjosemariaescriva

 

St. Josemaria Escriva built Opus Dei around the notion of “divine filiation,” i.e., how recognition that we are God’s children sparks continual conversion…and confidence. The Way #860 reads:

Before God, who is eternal, you are much more a child than, before you, the tiniest toddler.

And besides being a child, you are a child of God. — Don’t forget it.

 

Don’t forget it. This echoes Trinity Sunday’s Gospel: Matthew 28: 16-20. The disciples go to and worship Jesus, “but they doubted” Matthew records. Then:

Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Don’t forget…that you are children of God…because 1) I give you an absolutely essential task; and 2) you are not alone. Thus the Church goes forth, inspired and consoled by Christ’s own spirit. Thus Pentecost continues ever anew as the Church goes about its task which, as Pentecost Sunday told us, overcomes the boundaries between them and us. We will not always succeed, but that’s why St. Josemaria reiterated his insight about divine filiation. Just like any good parent, God the Father will never ceases to love the child. It is wise as children, though, to remain close to our Father. With the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, guiding us, though, how could we do otherwise?

That the one God exists in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—still inspires faith while confounding the wise. And “wise” in this case could mean anyone who simply refuses to break from conventional thinking. During graduate studies in Nashville, Tennessee, one of my jobs involved unloading delivery trucks. One hard-working guy, an evangelical Protestant, captured several centuries of consternation by recounting a Bible study (on Matthew 28!) he and his wife had attended: ‘She read “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and tells me that’s all one God. But, Jeff, when I read that same passage, that says to me three. Now how can that be?” Facing a fully-loaded truck, I took the easy way out, muttering something like “that very question has confused people for years.” That isn’t an exaggeration or a lie, but it doesn’t offer much, either. There are many resources for understanding the Trinity’s reality. However, at some point almost all attempts fall far short. The Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—unifies Christianity’s messianic narrative, which with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection challenges our rationality, with the past, present, and future. The same God who chose the Jews also became human in Jesus who died and rose again and that same God’s spirit, now shaped by the Incarnation, remains with us now. Thus the Trinity offers the foundations for both theodicy (why bad things happen to good people) and ethics (how we act towards ourselves and others). The Spirit abides with us throughout. Yet grabbing this requires more than mere rational assent. St. Augustine of Canterbury’s dictum still holds true: credo ut intelligam—I believe so that I might understand. Sometimes this faith needs something traditional like the Rosary to assist the acquisition of such knowledge.

Guest blogger Jeffrey Marlett blogs at Spiritual Diabetes.

Let Us Rejoice!

The Church, through the medium of Liturgical Year, reminds us that Laetare (Rejoice!) is not just the name of a single day but it is an inescapable spiritual perspective for a lifetime. The Easter truth informs our faith every Sunday and every day of the year.

This has been a particularly hard winter for many of us… with record and enduring low temperatures, ever growing piles of snow and ice, ice, ice. The darkness of winter and the challenges inherent in that season try us. They turn us inward like a warm house on a snowy night calls us in and out of the wind. There is a beautiful parallel for us in this hemisphere, at least, between the natural season and the Liturgical season. Drawing us inward the Penitential Season of Lent invites us to reflect on the journey of our spiritual life and our growth in our relationship with God and others. There is a sense of Retreat when we pause and take the time apart to examine and sit with those deepest realities that anchor our faith.

As the winter has been hard, Lent, too, can be difficult. Knowing that, the Church in her wisdom marks the half-way point in the Lenten Season to allow us to take a breath amid the serious reflection and work of the penitential season. Part of the beauty of the entire Liturgical Year is this built-in rhythm that interfaces with the natural seasons and allows us, if we give ourselves to it, to move forward with the pace that our will and God’s good grace lead. Laetare Sunday, with its correlative partner, Gaudate Sunday in Advent, invites us to remember and celebrate, and, yes, rejoice as it echoes the Introit of the traditional Latin Mass, “Rejoice! Oh Jerusalem!” The rose vestments which replace the purple for a day are a surprise and a reminder of the Easter kerygma that enlivens our faith with love and enduring hope.

Cloy PotIn the midst of our reflection in this penitential season, the theme of forgiveness and healing encourages us to embrace the redemptive grace of Easter. Our frailty, our “Happy Fault” is an occasion for growth and God’s good grace. The image of a clay pot, an earthen vessel, has always spoken to me. It is fragile, flawed, often broken and mirrors our human condition. A psychologist friend once humorously commented that many of us are broken while some are just a little cracked. All kidding aside, it’s not difficult to see ourselves in this image. The wonderful lyricist Leonard Cohen wrote in his poem/song Anthem, “forget your perfect offering, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Rejoice, I say again rejoice, not in the crack, but in the light!

Susan O’Hara teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Enroll in the School of Forgiveness

To err is human; to forgive, Divine. The old adage about God’s mercy and our frailty provides a tempting means of letting ourselves off the hook when it comes to forgiving others. After all, as “mere humans,” we’re weak, fragile and subject to every whim, distraction and opportunity for self-indulgence with which we’re presented. According to this line of thought, “I’m only human,” becomes a defense for wrongdoing that (if we’re honest) each of us has employed at one time or another. Doing what is right and just at all times is impossible for us, so we might as well not worry about striving too hard to hit the mark. As for forgiveness: it’s a goal, but not one we’re expected to consistently attain because some things are just too awful to forgive (human weakness, after all). All of the “tough stuff,” the hard things in life, and those that require a lot of extra effort – those are things God can do, but not us “puny humans.”

Today is Ash Wednesday, the gift the Church gives us as a call to self-reflection and repentance – and to the realization that we are to strive toward the Divine. It is the Forgivenessbeginning of the Lenten season, and an opportunity to truly walk with Jesus as He makes His way toward the Cross. For Eastern Catholics, this season actually began two days earlier. Monday marked the first day of The Great Fast (as it is called in the East), and it begins, in a way, by refuting the adage about forgiveness being strictly God’s province.

The day before The Fast begins is known as Forgiveness Sunday, wherein we remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, and the beginning of the path toward salvation. Vespers are celebrated in the evening, and end with a Service of Mutual Forgiveness, in which everyone – from the priest, to the altar servers, to the people in the pew – approach each other individually to ask for and receive forgiveness with these words:

Forgive me, a sinner.
God Himself forgives you.

It is often difficult for us to “work up the courage” to examine our consciences and “enter the box” to confess our sins. Yet the experience of God’s grace, and the relief of letting go of the dead weight of sin that gets in the way of experiencing true love and peace, calls us back again and again. Entering into the Holy Mystery of Confession is essential for our spiritual (and general) health year round, but it’s especially important at the start of, and throughout, The Fast.

Just as important is our willingness to let go of our pride and face each other in a stance of humility and openness: to ask for forgiveness, and be willing to forgive. Neither is easy. Depending upon the ways we’ve hurt others – or been hurt by them – it can feel equally as impossible to ask forgiveness as it is to grant it. This is why the Fast is so important for us, not simply as a spiritual discipline, or the fulfillment of a requirement. Self-denial – breaking out of the cocoon of self-centeredness – is the introductory course in the School of Forgiveness. It’s a course we all need to repeat again and again, but the Teacher is patient and willing to tutor us in the ways of love and surrender.

“To err” is human, inasmuch as our inclination toward sin is our inheritance from the fall of our first parents. Yet to forgive is human, too. To forgive is to be authentically human; humanity made possible by the Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Jesus, Son of God, took flesh and became human so that we could become like God.

If it’s been a month – or it’s been years – since you “stepped into the box,” stop where you are and examine your conscience. Go to confession at the first opportunity you can. Then examine your conscience again and forgive those who have hurt you. If you can do it in person, go to them in humility and love. If that’s not possible, forgive them in your heart and pray to God for them. Revise the adage and give it new meaning in your life: To err is human; to forgive, authentically human through the grace of the Divine Savior.

Forgive…because God Himself forgives you.

Ann Koshute teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

The Beauty of Autumn

Fall in New England is so rich in color, beautiful color! Once a year I set out on a quest to find some of the finest foliage in the region as I traverse long stretches of rolling hills and country roads. Once found I sit in contemplation of its beauty, I meditate on the One who created such an array of colors, and I try to memorize the different hues and shades and rejoice in his creation. In this season of grandeur, we see the transformation of nature.

Autumn-Wallpaper-37Somehow the beauty of the autumn colors, the crisp air, the falling of the leaves, remind me of the liturgical celebrations set before us by the Church during this same period of time.   As I watch the emerging majesty of nature unfold, I sense the foreshadowing of the upcoming feasts’ relevance to the autumnal theme. The rhythm of the Solemnities, Feasts Days, the memorials of the saints and the readings for the Sundays of Ordinary time captures the mysteries of redemption. September begins by recalling the Nativity of Our Lady and the first “color” of transformation is made manifest, “she will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:22). With swift succession, memorials of saints are celebrated revealing magnificent virtues lived magnanimously. The virtues, if lived, require a transformative dying to self. The falling of the leaves, their return to dust, seeds deep within the ground preparing to give new life in due time reveal the transformation of nature. I am reminded that the realities recalled from our liturgical celebrations manifest spiritual transformation.

With each passing day and each passing Sunday, the emergence of important themes come forth resplendently; images of the Kingdom of God; the greatest commandment is given and parables about death and eternal life are revealed. The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated early in September. This Feast reminds us that we are saved by the One who “though he was in the form of God, did not deem equality with God, something to be grasped at, rather he humbled himself…even to death, death on a Cross.” (cf. Phil 2:6, 8). The glorious liturgical peak for this season, Christ the King, is celebrated on the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. Here is the breath-taking moment when I desire stillness in order to contemplate Christ “upon his glorious throne” (Mt 25:32). I invite him to be enthroned in my heart.

Saint John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, “The religion founded upon Jesus Christ is a religion of glory; it is a newness of life for the praise of the glory of God (cf. Eph 1:12). All creation is in reality a manifestation of his glory. In particular, man (vivens homo) is the epiphany of God’s glory, man who is called to live by the fullness of life in God.” (6)  The autumn of the Liturgical Year reminds me to long for a transformation of my life by living the virtues.. Just as nature is going through its dying process so new life can spring forth, I am challenged to ask of myself how do I die to self so to allow Christ to live in me? With each passing year, I find myself trying to memorize or rather experience the richness of these celebrations, feasts and Solemnities so I can more readily be an “epiphany of God’s glory.”

Lisa Gulino is Director for the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation in the DIocese of Providence and teaches ministry for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! While most consider Christmas to have that honor, I think the Easter Triduum takes it – hands down.

In the next few days, the universal Church will celebrate the reason for her existence. We will remember the moments in the life of Jesus that make the kingdom of God our reality. I use the present tense intentionally here because the memory of these events is of a very particular kind – an anamnesis. Such a remembrance implies a making present of the event, as well as a participation in the event. Though we have this experience at every Mass, during the Easter Triduum, we have the opportunity to travel the road of the disciples in the same time frame that they did – over the course of three days. The Easter Triduum is actually one extended liturgical celebration, not three separate ones. For me, the most powerful moments come in the waiting between our times in the church.

On Holy Thursday, we sit with Jesus at the Last Supper. Here, Jesus gives new meaning to the Passover ritual gestures that fulfill God, the Father’s plan of salvation. The sharing of bread, which bonded those present at the Passover celebration, is “My Body”, indicating that the unity of his disciples lies now in His Person, not merely common food. The cup of wine blessed by Jesus is the Cup of Elijah, the Messiah. This cup is “My Blood”, by which Jesus both claims his Messianic identity and indicates the way in which salvation will be won. Furthermore, the cup is shared, indicating the sharing in Christ’s suffering that the disciples will undergo – suffering which will have the same redemptive effect as that of Christ’s own. Thus, we can say with St. Paul, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

We then go off with Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane. Traditionally, we visit local parishes to visit with the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night – entering into the mind and heart of Jesus, pondering the thoughts and feelings that caused him to sweat blood, staying awake with him as best we can. I always appreciated not having to go to work on Good Friday because it enabled me to truly enter into this moment, and, the next morning, to feel the anticipation of the trial of Jesus to be remembered at the Good Friday service.

tomb mosaicOf course, on Good Friday, we are present at the trial, condemnation, and crucifixion of Jesus, playing our role in His suffering, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Leaving Good Friday service, I am always left with a keen awareness that the tabernacle is empty, that all tabernacles are empty. I must admit, it scares me a bit – to think that Jesus is not here! Yes, I know he is in my thoughts and in my heart, but that makes his presence dependent on me. In the Eucharist, he is here in a much fuller capacity (indeed, the fullest) than I could ever imagine spiritually – and I can feel that presence in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It is a grace far beyond me. With that presence gone, I feel the inadequacy of my own memories of Jesus.

Holy Saturday is a very long day for me. I imagine what it must have been like for the disciples and Mary during that time between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What they hoped for had never been done before – a man would rise from the dead. Plus, the Romans would be after them soon, too. What if this really was the end? What if they had been duped? What was it all for? What if they stopped trusting themselves and their own experience of Jesus? Did he really heal and feed all those people? Could they trust their own memories? What if it was all in their imaginations?

Slowly, the church illuminates with the light of the Easter fire, then pew by pew until the darkness is lifted, and we are bathed in the light of Christ at the Easter Vigil. Halleluah! He is risen! Jesus is the Messiah. He has conquered sin and death. The kingdom of God IS our reality! And we are here, present in this anamnesis, at its founding. We can trust our own memories of Jesus because we have been present to and participated in the Paschal Mystery.

So tell me, is there a more wonderful time of the year?

Carmina Chapp teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.