Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shrouded

The crucifix and statues are shrouded in our church. The only images left are those of the Stations of the Cross. It was a shock to me, even though I was there last night when the Altar Society had begun to cover up icons, statues, and reliquaries. The crucifix is so large and high that I did not stay for the whole process requiring yards and yards of fabric to be draped. In addition, watching people atop ladders makes me squeamish.

So this morning, when I walked in, the crucifix enshrouded in red with a circlet of thorns where Christ's head is beneath the veil, shocked me into remembrance that now, the Lenten fasts and penance must enter into a more intense observance.

I have fallen short once again of my Lenten ideals, but in what I have been able to persevere in love and obedience, the time has flown by. My prayer life has grown deeper. The twice-weekly prayer at the abortuary has increased my capacity for suffering. Early morning vigils through a cold winter will do that. And the humiliation of the world's rejection is necessary medicine for pride.

But I always returned to my home parish, entering into either the church or Adoration Chapel knowing that the statues and crucifix are there to help me de-compress, so to speak.

Today, those images are veiled. Today, we begin the torturous last days: The supreme yielding of a Beloved Son's will to the Father, the Suffering that brought about mankind's Redemption must necessarily precede Easter Joy.

I am grateful for the Church's liturgical celebrations that mark the footsteps of Christ in His Passion. The evangelical churches in town have begun their Easter dramas and cantatas, the mail campaigns to get people into the churches. In the eschewing of liturgy, there is an unsurprising need for people to re-enact the Holy Days of Christ's Passion. As if Easter couldn't be Easter without retelling.

So we're bombarded with colorful postcards inviting us, huge billboards that advertise Passion dramas. I am thankful for our Church's Tradition that never abandoned marking our year with our Salvation History. Indeed, the shrouding of familiar images plunges us and prepares us for what is to come. The Transfiguration has passed, soon it will be the Procession of the Palms, the Hosannas that quickly turn to condemnation and revilement, the painful Via Dolorosa.

Within the Death that killeth death is veiled the Resurrection, the Triumph of the Lord of Life. But first, must come agony, abandonment, suffering, humiliation. Christ asks all who desire to call themselves his disciples to accept the cross, to suffer and die to self.

For the next two weeks, the visual deprivation reminds me to pay attention, to take care with the days ahead that I not live them as though they are just routine. Now is the time of Salvation. Harden not your hearts.

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