Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy (Maundy) Thursday

I saw last night the moon was either full or one day lacking of full, so it looks like this is one year where Passover and Easter occur at the same time. And according to the calendar we use now, it's only three days past the actual date of the Last Supper, about which some scholars disagree (I think), but which Jim Bishop puts at Thursday, April 6, AD 30.

So today is the first of the Triduum or "three days" that are the holiest in the Catholic liturgical calendar, climaxing with the Easter Vigil Mass, after dark but before dawn, Saturday night-Sunday morning.

So who's Jim Bishop? He was a journalist who, in 1957, published The Day Christ Died, an hour-by-hour account of Jesus Christ's passion and death, from 6 pm Thursday to 4 pm Friday; with three interspersed chapters, "The Jewish World," "The Roman World," and "Jesus."

In my not-so-humble opinion, it is the best book ever published on the central point of human history. I've read it almost every Lent since it came out, when I was 13 or so.

I think most of us like happy endings, and of course this story, the most important story in the world, has a happy ending. But there's only the tiniest hint of that in the book.

As best I know, it's been the constant theme of the greatest saints down through the ages that to rise with Christ, we have to die with Him. He Himself said that unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will not bear fruit. Suffering is something none of us like and most of us would like to avoid. But Jesus and the saints, His most faithful followers, have said over and over again that the Cross -- our crosses -- must be carried if we're to be worthy of Him.

There's a very important notion in Catholic thought (it might be in other Christian denominations too, but I don't know), that of redemptive suffering. The idea (based on a passage in St. Paul) is that if we offer up our sufferings to Christ, He will use them to help redeem the world. So our suffering isn't meaningless, it isn't senseless; it has profound and eternal meaning. And I not only believe the idea, I like it -- because I'd go crazy otherwise.

Anyway, the more we immerse ourselves in Christ these next three days, the more we'll appreciate the joy of Easter. And the closer we stick with Him in our lives -- including carrying our crosses -- the better chance we have of "arising glorious with Him on the Last Day."

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