Perhaps the most spiritually stirring time of the liturgical year for me is Holy Week. While Easter Sunday is the ultimate celebration of our faith — Christ’s victory over sin and death — Good Friday shakes my soul like no other day.
Recovering from knee surgery earlier in the week, I hobbled my way to one of the benches in the back and rested my crutches against the wall. Standing for the reading of the Passion was…well, not easy. But seriously, am I going to complain? We’re reading about the Son of God who has just been condemned in what would be a mockery of judicial due process by today’s standards. He then proceeds to suffer an unbearably gruesome persecution and death. For me I’m grateful that my knee is the size of a large grapefruit and I can barely stand.
The time comes for the veneration of the cross. For those who wish, you could approach the cross to touch it, kneel before it, even kiss it if you so desire. As I work my way in line, the haunting hymn “Were You There?” surrounds the entire sanctuary. And it is true: “Sometimes, it causes me to tremble…tremble…tremble….” It’s not my bad knee, nor is it my crutches. It’s my trembling heart and soul and they are coming to grips with the fact that of all my sin and shame, this Man, has laid down His life for me.
I cry. Like a child. It hurts….But I am also liberated because I have gone beyond the basic, intellectual understanding that Christ died for my sins: I can feel it. I feel it just as much as I feel and smell the cedar of the cross that I have just kissed.
The distractions of regular life are gone from me. I’m not thinking about work that needs to be done or the taxes that have to be filed. I sure as heck am not thinking about those darn crutches. Even among the 800+ parishioners in the church, this is my moment alone with Christ.
As a convert to Catholicism, I’ve never really had an issue of taking for granted the real presence of the Blessed Sacrament; it’s the reason I sought the Church. And yet, I would receive the Eucharist later in the service and I was once again overcome with the power of God’s love for me by way of His son.
Powerful. Exhausting. Liberating. Filled with love. This was my Good Friday.
As the service concluded, parishioners made their way out of the sanctuary. It didn’t bother me much that no one was making way to give me a turn to leave. I was on my crutches and figured I’d just hold people up. It was ok; I was savoring the moment.
Just then a colleague whom I had not seen in months approached me. He greeted me kindly and softly asked what had happened. I responded that I just had knee surgery. At that moment one gentlemen “shushed” us giving us a very stern look. He then raised his arm as if to signal for us to keep our mouths shut. He held his arm for some time as he walked away.
Admittedly, I became angry at this man. I think I knew what he was trying to do: preserve the solemnity of the moment. It felt as though I was being scolded for desecrating the sacred space. As someone who has always taken measures to be reverential in the sanctuary — especially when the Blessed Sacrament is present — I felt wrongly accused.
And then I thought more about it.
Instead of ruining my own experience and giving this one person’s reaction power over me, I had to let it go. And I was reminded: Christ is big enough. He can handle it.
That night, we commemorated His persecution, His suffering and His death. In two days, we will have celebrated His resurrection.
I do not wish to be flip, but I’m guessing Jesus probably does not care that I responded to my friend’s inquiry inside the sanctuary. If anything, He might be pleased that someone cared enough to quietly ask. As for the person who admonished us, I’m guessing Jesus was thinking “Hey, thanks for looking out for me. But it’s o.k. I’m big enough. I can handle it.”
May the God, who is big enough, live in you always. Have a blessed, love-filled Easter.