Entering Holy Week in Union with the Crucified
and in Hope for the Resurrection
Tomorrow the crescendo will begin; the slow yet painful and certain movement of Jesus to the inevitable. How can we move with the growing momentum, not as if we are just sleepwalking through the all too familiar but with our consciousness fully aware and comprehending?
Each day at the Office of Readings the Church offers us its ancient guidance. Today following a reading from the Letter to the Hebrews speaking of the priesthood of Christ and His creation of a New Covenant, we were offered the words of St. Gregory of Nazianzen, 4th century bishop of Constantinople and great theologian. It was an excerpt from a homily about the sharing of the faithful in the approaching Passover of Holy Week. He wrote:
We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second,
turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies...
We must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything
we do, accept all that happens for the sake of the Word,
imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring the blood
by shedding our own.
We must be ready to be crucified....
Worship him who is hung on the cross because of you,
even if you are hanging there yourself.
Gregory speaks to his flock and to us today of the realities of the human condition, the realities Jesus entered and shared with us by his Incarnation, participation in our humble humanity. And Gregory says unite it all with him on the cross. He acknowledges the certainty of our human suffering and then invites us to exalt it in union with Jesus hanging on the cross. There is no denial of our suffering, but only the suggestion to exalt it.
The photo above - The Cross and the Laundry - speaks to me of the human condition of suffering and Jesus' union with all of it on the cross. His suffering and that of all humanity are one. It is easy today to think of human suffering in terms of the victims of yesterday's massacre in Binghamton, New York, the suffering of their families and the demented torture of the man who wrecked such havoc on the innocent. It is easy to think of the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe without food, clothing, medicine, and schools. Surely there is great suffering in the violence in the Holy Land, Afghanistan, Iraq and Mexican drug wars. Truly these are great sufferings. But here is a pain, a suffering, a struggle, or an addiction in each of us. Jesus took on himself, and continues to take on, both the universal and particular sufferings. He is united with us in ours and St. Gregory invites us to respond from our own experience and unite it, in turn, with that of Jesus on the cross.
The bishop does not end there. He does not stop and remain at the cross.
If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to one who ordered
his crucifixion, and ask for Christ's body. Make your own
the expiation for the sins of the whole world.
If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night,
bring spices and prepare Christ's body for burial.
If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna,
weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.