The Resurrection by Caravaggio
Good Easter Monday! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! I just finished celebrating the Vigil Mass of Easter.
I trust that your Holy Week was spiritually enriching, mine certainly was. Every year I look forward to Holy Week with hope and joyful expectation mixed with fear and dread. Throwing oneself head over heels into Holy Week can be both spiritually rewarding and exhausting. The liturgies are long, fasting is stressful and emotionally one can be pulled one way and another. But above all, Holy Week retreat can be a period of quiet contemplation apart from the liturgies. The silence of Holy Week, without radio, television, telephone or visitors can afford one the time to connect with the Lord to a degree not ordinarily possible.
I read a lot during Holy Week. In addition to Sacred Scripture, I read, among other writings, Understanding Miracles by Zsolt Aradi and Hints of Heaven by Father George William Rutler. Both books are filled with amazing detail and are a source of both intellectual as well as spiritual growth.
But the third leg of the mensa at which I feasted spiritually was music. Truly, Lutheran Johann Sebastian Bach should be canonized by the Church. His music has the power to inspire and move intellectually and spiritually like no other. I listened to both The Saint John Passion and The Saint Matthew Passion. It is the latter that surely has earned Bach a place close to the Lord in Heaven, it has the power to move one to the depths of their being.
While I did not watch TV during my retreat I did play a DVD. It was Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ. I watched it on Good Friday. It has never failed to bring tears to my eyes; it is so powerful. Everything is perfect in the film, the casting, the cinemaphotography, the script, and the music. Motion pictures are perhaps the greatest art form, combining all of the arts. If you do not own the DVD I urge you to buy it and if you are unable to participate in the live Liturgy in your church on Good Friday, watching the DVD is a good substitute, it will induce you to pray fervently.
Of course the fourth and most important leg of the mensa at which I dined was the Liturgy. From Dom Cyprian Vagaggini, OSB I learned the metaphysical definition of the Liturgy: “The Liturgy is a complexus of the sensible signs of things sacred, spiritual, invisible, instituted by Christ or his Church; signs which are efficacious each in its own way, of that which they signify; by which signs God (the Father by appropriation), through Christ the Head and Priest, and in the presence of the Holy Spirit, sanctifies the Church, and the Church as a body, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, uniting herself to Christ her Head and Priest, through him renders her worship to God (the Father by appropriation).” That is the long definition, it can be shortened to: the Liturgy is the complexus of sacred signs instituted by Jesus Christ, or by his Church, which both signify and confer sanctifying grace. It is especially in the celebration of the liturgies of Holy Week that one can realize the validity of Vagaggini’s definition.
For some, the length of the Holy Week Liturgies is more than they can stand and so they avoid them. Too bad, they are missing a wonderful opportunity to grow spiritually while at the same time giving special worship to God. These liturgies are a short course in the faith, while at the same time they are a high form of prayer and praise.