Sunday, March 29, 2009
It's almost time.
Time is running short, and soon, our lenten disciplines will come to an end. It almost seems too short, really. We've spent these last days preparing for the greatest festival of the church year, the festival that the whole year anticipates.
But even before it, we have a mini-season for further preparation. We call it 'passiontide'. In it, we should seek to the best of our ability so draw away from the world and spend time with our lord, waiting with him as he prepares to fulfill all that was told of him. We have a week left to grow closer to our savior, and more importantly, to grow close to him in his passion, lest the horror and desolation of Good Friday and holy Saturday overtake us too much. And mother church assists us in our devotion.
For all the year, for all of lent, we've had the crucifix displayed as a help to our meditation on our Lord's passion, but now it is veiled. Now we must draw on the experience of a past life of prayer, without the aid of a visual reminder. In sorrow, the Queen of Saints and her court veil themselves to mourn our beloved Jesus, soon to die for us all.
Almost suddenly, the mass and divine office speak of the suffering of our lord rather than our lenten fasting and other disciplines. At the office, we sing the hymn 'Vexilla Regis Prodeunt' at vespers, and 'Pange Lingua Gloriosi...Certaminis' broken into parts for matins and lauds.
The short chapters at lauds and vespers speak of christ "Like a gentle Lamb led to slaughter"(Monday, Lauds) "suffering ouside the gate" and "bearing abuse" (Thursday, Vespers) and that "he was marred beyond human apearance"(Friday,Lauds). Even more, we are told that we "shall mourn, looking upon him whom they have pierced" (Tuesday, lauds)
And we hear more of why the chief priests and the crowds wanted to kill him. At Wednesday, the antiphon at lauds tells us that they wanted to kill him because he taught the truth. But who wants to suppress truth? What man of God would desire to suppress what is of God? Why would they not listen? As our lord asks in the antiphon at Friday's vespers, for which of his good works do they want to kill him? Christ himself explains, saying quite bluntly that the reason they do not listen and want to kill him because they are not of God.(Thursday, lauds)
And on Friday, we are given the tender commemoration of our sorrowful mother Mary, standing the foot of the cross. In the collect of this day in the new roman missal, which asks that we may imitate blessed Mary in devoutly contemplating Christ Crucified, we pray 'Grant we beseech you, the intercession of the same Virgin,that we might in these days adhere more firmly to your only Begotten Son, and come at last to the fullness of grace.' In some places, permission is even given to sing the Stabat Mater at the office.
These days. These last days before our lord is "offered as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to the father". (Wednesday, vespers.)
So the almost halcyon days of lent are fading away, and the more turbulent times of passiontide are nigh.
"O good cross, made beautiful by the body of the Lord, long have I desired thee, ardently have I loved thee, unceasingly have I sought thee, and now thou art ready for my eager soul. Receive me from among men and restore me to my Master, so that He, who redeemed me through thee, shalt receive me through thee. Amen."
-S.Andrew the apostle, before being crucified.