It was a set-up right from the start.
For the Mary segment of our community’s anniversary concert last year, we wanted to depict Mary’s sorrow and turmoil at the foot of the cross. (In other words, we wanted the audience to cry their eyes out.) To open the scene, we flashed some of the most emotional, heart-wrenching movie clips of Mary at the crucifixion you’ve ever seen (you know the ones I’m talking about). And if that wasn’t enough to move them, we wrote a monologue that spoke of her pain and confusion (previously recounted in an earlier post). Still no tears? Try listening to a song about Mary’s struggle to accept that her son was never really hers to keep–
If You were mine, You’d hear no hurtful words,
You’d feel no pain in Your body or soul.
If You were mine, You’d never be alone;
There’d be no crown of thorns, no death on a cross.
If there was no greater love than this…
Oh Jesus, I feel the pain in Your heart, just hold on,
It won’t be long, if You were mine.
Still not enough? Watch these girls dramatically dance out the song for you.
Really, the audience didn’t stand a chance.
It must be hard for some non-Catholics to understand why we intentionally set aside a time every year to be, well, sorrowful. Fasting, abstaining…even our Liturgy holds back on the joy by skipping the most glorious parts of the mass–the Gloria and the Alleluia. Traditionally, Catholics are discouraged from holding wedding celebrations during this period, as a party stretching till the wee hours of the morning hardly speaks of Lenten melancholy. Sacrifices, self-denial, woe is me, have mercy, have mercy!, not so, the wicked, not so.
Only thing left to do is put a sackcloth over our heads and start wailing.
Why do we, year after year, focus on our sinfulness, voluntarily deprive ourselves, and give more emphasis on silent, secret prayer? Why require the whole Church to go to confession on this sacred season? Why adorn the altar and clothe our priests in purple, the “repentant” color? Is it because we choose to forget that Christ resurrected from the dead, thus wallowing in the depths of our hopelessness and sin?
You know better than that.
We take special time and effort to remember our sinfulness precisely because we want to fully rejoice and celebrate Christ’s Resurrection. And to fully appreciate the victory of Easter, we need to be able to face the violent, gruesome face of Jesus on the Cross–His wounds, His blood, His tears. It is not enough to know that He died to save us from our sins–we have to feel our selfishness scourging Him blow by blow, and see the thorny crown of our pride piercing His brow.
It takes time and effort to get to Calvary. For Catholics, we are given 40 days.
Forty days to remember our mortality, that life on earth is passing away. Forty days to clothe ourselves in humility, knowing that there is something greater, more eternal than our hopes and dreams. Forty days to deny ourselves, thereby opening our eyes to the deeper, yet often ignored, desires of our hearts. Forty days to consciously think of others as more important than ourselves. Forty days to reflect, remember, and realize that we do not deserve God’s mercy, that we are not worthy of His love.
His love that sent His only Son. His love that died on the Cross.
Lent invites us to go as low and as deep as we can, because only then can we glimpse the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice. Lent leads us fully to the Cross, allowing us to die to ourselves, so that on the third day, we may once again gloriously sing at the sight of that stone that was impossibly moved.
Like I said, it was a set up right from the start.