March 31: Day by Day with Father Bill
WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK
-from The Three Days of Pascha by Nathan Mitchell
Is history the central focus of celebration during the Triduum? Certainly, the early Christian creeds anchored belief in the historical, this-worldly circumstances that accompanied Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. Jesus’ life, career and death were, in other words, attached to a specific time, in a specific place. His proclamation of God’s arrival in the present moment (God’s reign), his bold challenge go understand God in and as one’s neighbor, his rejection of religion as a means of social or political control – all this took place not in some cosmic cloud of unknowing but in a remote province of the later Roman Empire at a time of sociopolitical transition. Precisely because these faith-anchoring events are historical, however they cannot be repeated or reenacted. That is why the church’s long tradition insists that what happened once in history passes over into the mystery of the assembly’s liturgical/ sacramental celebrations. What the paschal triduum actually celebrates is mystery, not history; anamnesis (a remembering that makes real in the present moment), not mimesis (a reenactment). The liturgies of these days do not take us back to the upper room or the path to Calvary. Their ultimate purpose is not to retrace or relive the last hours of Jesus’ life – nor catch sight of him emerging from the tomb at Easter’s dawning. They celebrate not what once happened to Jesus but what is happening among us as a people called to conversion, gathered in faith, and gifted with the Spirit of holiness. They celebrate God’s taking possession of our hearts at their deepest core, recreating us as a new human community broken like bread for the world’s life – a community rich in compassion, steadfast in hope, and fearless in the search for justice and peace.