I came back from Maundy Thursday Mass a few hours ago. I posted this thought on Facebook, and it got a few enthusiastic responses:
One thing I like about the Catholic liturgical year is that it is
independent of you. If you go to a Maundy Thursday Mass and you are not
in a particularly 'spiritual' frame of mind, and maybe you are thinking
of other things, and you can't concentrate on prayer....the sense of
occasion and solemnity just carries you along, to some extent. And even
if you're 'not feeling it' at the time, it sticks in your memory. It
takes the pressure off, you don't have to be a spiritual athlete.
In the same way, if you go to Mass every week, the prayers and the
hymns and the readings enter into your memory and your soul by
absorption. When people criticise organised religion for 'mumbled
prayers' or mechanical spiritual exercises they have really hit on one
of its strengths. I believe that it's the things that seep into us when
we are not looking or thinking about them-- through the corner of the
eye, so to speak-- that have the deepest effect on us.
I post this here because I feel I should post something for the Triduum, and that seems to fit the bill. And what else can you say about the great feasts that they don't already (so to speak) say for themselves? Chesteton expressed this brilliantly in The Everlasting Man:
“Every attempt to amplify that story has diminished it.
The task has been attempted by many men of real genius and eloquence as
well as by only too many vulgar sentimentalists and self-conscious
rhetoricians. The tale has been retold with patronizing pathos by
elegant sceptics and with fluent enthusiasm by boisterous best-sellers.
It will not be retold here. The grinding power of the plain words of the
Gospel story is like the power of mill-stones; and those who can read
them simply enough will feel as if rocks had been rolled upon them.
Criticism is only words about words; and of what use are words about
such words as these? What is the use of word-painting about the dark
garden filled suddenly with torchlight and furious faces? ‘Are you come
out with swords and staves as against a robber? All day I sat in your
temple teaching, and you took me not.’ Can anything be added to the
massive and gathered restraint of that irony; like a great wave lifted
to the sky and refusing to fall? ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for
me but weep for yourselves and for your children.’ As the High Priest
asked what further need he had of witnesses, we might well ask what
further need we have of words. Peter in a panic repudiated him: ‘and
immediately the cock crew; and Jesus looked upon Peter, and Peter went
out and wept bitterly.’ Has anyone any further remarks to offer? Just
before the murder he prayed for all the murderous race of men, saying,
‘They know not what they do’; is there anything to say to that, except
that we know as little what we say? Is there any need to repeat and spin
out the story of how the tragedy trailed up the Via Dolorosa and how
they threw him in haphazard with two thieves in one of the ordinary
batches of execution; and how in all that horror and howling
wilderness of desertion one voice spoke in homage, a startling voice
from the very last place where it was looked for, the gibbet of the
criminal; and he said to that nameless ruffian, ‘This night shalt thou
be with my in Paradise’? Is there anything to put after that but a
full-stop? Or is anyone prepared to answer adequately that farewell
gesture to all flesh which created for his Mother a new Son?”
So I will content myself with wishing all my readers a holy and peaceful Triduum. I often ask you for prayers; I keep you in mine, as well.