Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Empty Tomb

Holy Week for Christians celebrates the most important events in our faith.

The Tridiuum begins on Holy Thursday with the celebration of the Lord's supper. For Catholics this is where Christ instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood. The celebratory mass includes the ritual of the washing of the feet which symbolizes the Christians' duty to serve his fellow man in imitation of Christ. At the end of mass, the Eucharist is taken out of the main sanctuary of the church and placed in a side chapel. The Tabernacle will remained open and empty throughout Good Friday.

Good Friday is when we remember the suffering and death of our Lord. No mass is celebrated on this day. Holy Communion consecrated on Holy Thursday is distributed. The Stations of the Cross and the adoration of the Crucifix are part of the Good Friday worship. St. John's Gospel shows the Christ of the Passion as a Christ in complete control, even to the point that His human nature may say, "It is finished." And with that He gives up His spirit. For us, we may learn that no matter what we may encounter in our lives, we always have our Free Will. We may not choose our Cross always, but we may choose what we do with it.

Easter is celebrated either at a Vigil mass on Saturday after nightfall or Sunday morning. Here we celebrate the empty tomb: The resurrection of our Lord and our chance at life everlasting with God.

The empty tomb has always fascinated me. The descriptions in the Gospels are detailed and create a mental image of exactly what should have happened. The tomb was not in shambles or completely empty as if Christ's body had been stolen. The garments were folded and the head napkin was rolled off to one side. I heard once that in Jewish Tradition, if a guest left the table, he would roll his napkin as a sign to the servants that he was going to return. I love that.

The Resurrection is both concrete and elusive. The facts of the empty tomb are recorded as a journalist would record events. Yet when Christ appears after He has risen, he is often not recognized at first by those who knew him well. He does not appear to everyone, though he appears to many.

Christ still remains concrete and elusive. God will not force Himself on us, we must choose Him. In order to freely choose, He can not make Himself known to us in His full glory. We couldn't help but choose such splendor. So He whispers to us, speaks to us through others, nudges us, comforts us. For those willing to see, He is also concrete in the ordered world He has created.

May the Empty Tomb speak to you this Easter. May you see in it the sign of a loving God who was willing to take on our nature, to suffer and die. Yet a powerful God who could conquered death to return again to our table.

A blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter to all.

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