From this Sunday until Easter, we enter into the most solemn time of the liturgical year. All Lent has been preparing us for Christ's Death and Resurrection. Beginning on Passion Sunday, we begin to prepare for His Death in earnest. From now until the Gloria is sung during Easter vigil, every crucifix, statue and holy picture within the church are shrouded in purple covers. Our Lord's impending betray and passion are foreshadowed in the daily readings, not only in the Mass, but in all the Divine Liturgy. Beginning on Palm Sunday, all four Passion Narratives from each of the Gospels will be read - Matthew on Sunday, Mark on Tuesday, Luke on Wednesday, and John on Friday. There are numerous beautiful and deeply moving ceremonies, prayers and hymns to bring to our minds the great love of God for us, and the great price He paid for our redemption. Passiontide into Easter vie with Christmas as my favourite time of the year.
From a purely selfish perspective - the last few weeks of Lent always seem to go by quickly. For four week, there is prayer and penance, fasting, and almsgiving. Quite often, it is a bit of a slog, that slow, breaking away from one's ordinary habits, the re-focusing on God, the discipline that is required to hold to good resolutions. And then, the Church gives one a break - Laetare Sunday (which was last week) - a day of hope and gladness in the midst of penitence. For a moment, we look beyond Calvary and see the victory after death. Then we hit a string of solemnities - Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. With the intense focus on the mystery of Redemption, comes a feeling as of a battle being drawn, of stake all, and win all. Grief and hope, heartbreak, anguish, and exultation combine to produce a time of happening - a sense of participating in some great movement that is both terrible and splendid.
Though I have not always been so faithful to my resolutions as I want to be, I can honestly say I have done my best this year. I have spent the last few weeks feeling as though I were a bit if iron, being given an edge. I have no idea of I actually am any better than I was at the beginning of the season - God knoweth, to quote St. Paul, but the hunger I have felt is more from a desire to be more Christlike, than from the purely human hunger that comes from reduced rations. And God, being good, has occasionally played Simeon's part in my own Cross carrying, and sent a bit of elemental joy into the somber world.
After one such occurrence, I composed this:
It was a wildly windy day, and though I cannot remember if there were clouds in the sky, or if it were merely bleached by a burning, winter sun, but the raven and the gull were caught in the light, and turned into creatures of silver flame as they slipped in great circles through the draught. At that moment, nothing else seemed to matter, but those two shining works of God's hands, and the goodness He has shown in making them as He did. And it was enough.