Know the Forest by The Tree
We can now consider ourselves to be in the liturgical season within the season within the season within the season. On September 14th, the Feast of the Holy Cross, the Church began the traditional penitential period stretching until Easter Sunday. Within this season, Lent began 40 days ago, calling us to a time of penance, fasting, and almsgiving. But, within Lent, last week we began the season of Passiontide, the last two weeks of Lent that call us to further penance. Within Passiontide, yesterday we began Holy Week, the most important week of the year in the Church. Within Holy Week, we will begin the Triduum come Thursday. Keeping it all straight?
The start of each liturgical period invites us to refocus our thoughts and actions. In turn, each Fall the cycle repeats, urging us again to conform our lives more closely to Christ. Year after year, this temporal progression and subsequent reversion continues, regularly calling us back to consider the Life, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ. This is best exemplified in the structures and rhythms of the Lenten Season.
So why do we need this liturgical intensification? I think it is because it is difficult for us to adequately consider and meditate upon divine things. In order to do so, we must prepare ourselves. This is particularly true regarding the events commemorated during the Triduum. Realizing its centrality urges us to spend the entire week meditating on the last week of Christ’s life. Because of this, we spend Lent preparing for Holy Week.
Paradoxically, continually focusing our thoughts on these particular events allows us to consider the highest things. While often in life we have to take a step back to get a better perspective, Holy Week urges us to dive in and consider one specific week in history. All questions of God’s existence, nature, love, and providential care are answered each Holy Week. It is when we consider the concrete historical events of Christ’s redemptive work that we can understand the relative importance of the rest of our lives. We are urged not to get lost in consideration of the many things that compete for our attention. The meaning of everything is known in the singular events of this week. We are called once again to turn and worship the Creator of all who is best known through the particular actions of Holy Week.
Image: Lesser Ury, Leser mit Lupe