Yesterday, the readings of the office, seemed to be saying “Stand firm” or a least so it seemed to me. This morning an article on staying with the cross popped up on my facebook newsfeed. All this reminded me of an article I had read while doing my spiritual director training. By Peter Fenessy SJ, it talked about what goes on when someone doing the exercises contemplates the Passion. This part of the exercises is a quarter of the full length and allows more time for the contemplation than we get in Holy Week but it has the same dynamic.
In the Passion our resolve to follow Christ and deal with sin in our lives is tested. Maybe before Lent, a person decided to give themselves totally to God in their observance. Lent may have challenged this for fasting, prayer and acts of charity can be difficult. Indeed working through the story of Jesus’ time in the desert may uncover our own weaknesses and temptations. And then we enter Holy Week.
Fenessy likens the dynamic of praying with the Passion to that of a person who is starving:
“…the initial hunger dies away after a short time; but once his body begins to feed on its own vital organs and death is imminent, the craving for food revivifies with extraordinary strength.”
Once Palm Sunday arrives, the Triduum is on the horizon. We know that Thursday we will face the Last Supper, the Watch, where Peter, James and John failed to stay awake, Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. As the Liturgy plays out and make the events present we will be faced once again with our own desire to run away, to abandon Christ or to save our own skin.
There is the call, in the Triduum, to unite ourselves with Christ, to stay with him in his suffering and ultimately to let something of the selfish and sinful part of us die. And that part of us, knowing it is threatened rises up and “fights back.”
It was good, yesterday, therefore to read psalms and New Testament reading that spoke of allowing God to do his work in us. It was also good to read St Basil describe how we can become united with Christ. It was also good to read about staying with Christ’s suffering “long enough to see it clearly.”
As the Triduum approaches I feel a certain resistance rise in me. Yet I have the choice to walk with Christ in all he has to go through. I can choose to be there as he dies and is buried. I can choose to be there long enough to see what he goes through. For as Fenessy says:
“In dealing with the more superficial good, [the person undertaking the Passion meditiations] may have been simultaneously relying upon and the affirming deeper one.”
In other words I may want to resort to self-preservation and run away. I may want to deny Jesus out of fear. I may want to hold onto something which comes in between me and God but letting go or standing by Christ, being united with him as he suffers holds a greater good than any of these other things.
And so, I know that I can choose to stand firm and go through the Triduum laying my resistance at the foot of the cross. I feel like running away but I can choose to ignore that impulse and find a deeper good by doing so.