Category Archives: Good Friday

When Our Candles Are Extinguished, Keeping The Faith

Passing through the narthex doors, the balance on my kids’ excitement meter tipped far right as they spied the ushers with those thin, white, paper-circle sheathed candles in hand. Of course, my meter headed in the opposite direction as I considered the possibilities ahead (think of two little balls of constant energy armed with flaming torches one inch away from flowing brunette locks and loose shirt tails). Ah, yes, a procession was in our immediate future on this Holy Thursday evening.

After ascending from the basement quiet room, with my smallest choir wannabe, on my way to receive the precious Body and Blood, I was pleasantly surprised (okay maybe just plain surprised) to find not a single candle was dangling limply from a crack down its center. Somehow in my absence Daddy had managed to keep the half a dozen sister-pokers safe or at least some inexplicable stroke of luck had been at play.
Once the last communicant returned to his seat, the altar boys began the domino of illumination. One by one, person to person, the Body of Christ passed the light from forward to back so that in moments the whole church interior was aglow in soft, flickering candlelight. And my proud offspring were smiling from ear to ear.
Seeing as the southern weather is bipolar this spring, we were woefully under-dressed for the outdoor procession. Daddy, therefore, volunteered to remain church-bound with the baby leaving me the honor of chaperoning the torch bearers single-handedly (one hand per flame wielding boy).
Cautiously we each made our way down the stone front steps as we followed the Blessed Sacrament. The initial downward movements left a few of us extinguished, so began the acts of charity as those still holding onto their warm glowing flames reached over to reignite our wicks. How beautiful it is when our normal pattern of pew-staking separateness is broken and we become the one that we are meant to be; sharing our space and our resources.
However, on this night the wind would seem the winner. By the time our feet made contact with the adjacent sidewalk, all but a handful of candles had succumbed leaving us all the more vulnerable in the cold night air. The kids, being “childlike” of course, continued their hopeful pursuit in search of re-ignition long after I’d resolved to walk in the chilly darkness.
Having wrapped my sweater around my five year old, my thin blouse was little consolation against the cold wind. Considering the open-toed sandals and skirted bare legs accompanying us in the procession, I imagine I wasn’t alone in my misery.
A few of my children had scouted ahead in search of light, but my position toward the rear left me mostly unable to see the canopy that led us. However, upon reaching the final corner I caught sight of the King’s memorial. The red altar servers’ torches at the head of the line had also lost the battle. Their glass cup protectors had failed to stave off the blustery air.
But the four tall, corner candles encircling the ciborium which housed the precious Body and Blood maintained their constancy. While we followers stumbled along in darkness, Christ’s Light remained leading the way. And isn’t that a visual portrayal of the Truth?
Earlier in the day, I’d chanced an encounter with a near occasion of sin. That is, I’d boldly and pridefully typed my two cents worth in challenge to a friend’s post on facebook (good thing confession is before Easter). The topic was local politics, specifically candidates running for office. As is the case with such discussions (okay, arguments) the lines were drawn and commentators claimed their sides.
I was heralding a long-shot runner, a devout Catholic who lives out his faith and sets his standards accordingly, but the opposition was quick to assess my choice as non-viable. Like stones in the hand of young David, they informed me there was no feasible way my contender could ever take down Goliath.
Yes, Noah’s ark was the creation of a doomsayer and David’s confidence was based on childish naïvete. Then there were those foolish disciples who believed some political agitator was the Son of God. Not to mention, all those stupid saints (like Francis) who traded riches for suffering.
How easily the winds of the world blow against our meager attempts to scatter Light. We’re left fumbling through the blackness- fearful and confused. Peter did this once the accusers dragged Jesus toward Calvary. Just hours before he’d pledged his complete devotion and endurance, but then all too quickly he recanted once the Source of his courage was withdrawn.
Though I may have given up on relighting my candle, I continued to follow the procession knowing where it was leading. Such it is in life, just because our human endeavors to evangelize may appear lost or insignificant against the spotlight of sin, we can be assured the Source of all Light, of all Truth will never cease to burn. Like Noah’s obedience, David’s courage, the disciples’ faith and the saints’ abandonment, so long as our path is illuminated by Jesus Christ we cannot go wrong.
We need only follow close, even if required to do so blindly. Whether we have benefit of other members of the Body to encourage and protect us or if we must walk alone vulnerable to the buffeting forces of opposition, we will not be misled. Christ reigns today as He did 2000 years ago and His Light will continue to shine through all eternity leading all who follow Him home.

Making Ready for Easter: 4 Posts from the Archives

With Holy Week in full swing my mind has been drifting toward Friday, but at the same time I am juggling the plans for our “new school year” which will begin next week . By juggling I mean: writing out five planners, cleaning the school cabinet AGAIN, distributing new books, and trying to formulate a new daily plan that includes more time and attention to writing for my blog all while cradling the baby and mediating sibling disputes. However, with all that being said I remember the focus of this week is not supposed to be on me. 

I decided to reread the posts I wrote last year at this time to help me recollect and prepare to make the journey from Holy Thursday to Good Friday and onward to the celebration of Easter. Won’t you join me…

Holy Thursday:

Envision reclining at table with Jesus, listening to the sound of His calm,mysterious words as He offers His Body and Blood for the first time. So many struggle with this abstruse teaching that they give up and flee the room. He speaks of a coming time when He’ll no longer be present, how confusing and worrisome. Perhaps, the Apostles desire a further explanation, but instead they must wait to fully comprehend the meaning of all that they are witnessing. Read HERE
Another:

Did you ever have a problem that you didn’t even realize you had? Like stinky feet or bad breath, no, not that kind of problem. Those kinds of maladies usual illicit someone’s notation. But, sometimes we can suffer from a dilemma without ever realizing its existence and impact on our lives. From childhood traumas to youthful heart breaks to adult disappointments, we can bear the invisible scars throughout a lifetime. Like an old sports injury, they can impede our present actions, cripple our faith. Read HERE

Good Friday:

So in hushed stillness, we sat in the first pew waiting for The Stations of the Cross to begin on this Good Friday. My eyes searched the bare altar, scanned the purple clothes hiding my favorite statues, all in an attempt to find consolation in familiarity. The lights still out and the sanctuary lamp missing from its stand added to the strange sense of loneliness. Read HERE

Easter:
Easter lilies, tulips, aromatic incense and the warm glow of candles filled the sanctuary. The altar was dressed in the full splendor of tapestries. As well, Our Lady of Fatima stood in a place of honor veiled in glorious white. My favorite saintly statues returned to greet me and the pews were filled with brothers and sisters donning their best attire. Servers surrounded the altar and Father stood clothed in a royal white and gold chasuble. Like heaven had leaned down and kissed the earth, this morning’s Easter Mass proclaimed the Resurrection. 
Read HERE


If you are inspired by any of these posts, would you please share my blog with friends and acquaintances who might also enjoy these posts. Just please be sure to link them back to my blog so that increases my traffic and encourages me to keep writing. -Tara

The Resurrecting Power of Mercy.

Like the devil himself was trying my patience and tempting me into despair, this morning horrific news reports bombarded me from every angle. Typically surrounded by a protective news bubble (by choice), I stumbled upon reports of dismemberment of parents and children, a radio broadcaster detailed the sick artwork of a child-hater, a blog hit my screen filled with angry rants, an article filled me in on the scandals created by a drug-dealing priest, and porn-promising spam snuck its way into my in-box. Add to this, the current hot-topic debates that equate the sacred Sacrament of Marriage to milk and unborn humans to benign tissue and it would seem the world’s gone hopelessly mad.

So in hushed stillness, we sat in the first pew waiting for The Stations of the Cross to begin on this Good Friday. My eyes searched the bare altar, scanned the purple clothes hiding my favorite statues, all in an attempt to find consolation in familiarity. The lights still out and the sanctuary lamp missing from its stand added to the strange sense of loneliness.

Then as the clock met noon, the bells chimed loudly crying out the hour, the lights clicked on and Father, the Deacon and the servers began their Cross walk. On hearing those first words, tears puddled in the corners of my eyes, but I drew them back. Genuflecting to the declaration “Because by Your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world,” I was transported in my thoughts. Watching our innocent Lord stand accused, seeing Him accept the crushing weight of the wooden cross, I couldn’t help but choke on my words as I begged His forgiveness and requested His aid to keep me from offending Him again. Choking because I know I’ll fail repeatedly.

The Welcome Distraction Of A Kiss


Periodically, when kneeling shrank my height, our 4 year old leaned over and left a sweet kiss on my cheek. These tender momentary distractions helped keep the tears at bay.

We accompanied Jesus down the long, arduous roads toward the end on a hill where He’d give up His life. The Stations of the Cross are a journey, both communal and personal. Traveling them throughout Lent leads to extraordinary grace, but especially on Good Friday.

Our steps complete, Father and his assistants disappeared and the church emptied of all signs of life. The next two hours for me were spent filling hungry bellies with a meager meal and seeing to the task of providing a safe place for my youngest to expend their ample energy before the hour of mercy called us back to worship.

Just before the third hour, I ushered my brood back into the serene sanctuary, back into the silence, the loneliness. Then, the procession stirred the stillness and as the priests reached the naked altar they prostrated themselves. Impressed by the awesome display of three large men, robed in rich red garments, lying face down on the altar riser, my son inquired, “Why are they doing that?” “They are telling God that they adore Him,” I explained, “and they are offering their whole selves to Him.”

Listening to the readings reminded me that Jesus was the fulfillment of an Old Testament promise. His Passion foreshadowed in detail to generations. Again those wet drops welled up as I considered how much God so loved the world. After the gospel recounted the Passion, Father spoke to us of the mercy of God. He reminded us that in His lifetime, Jesus Christ spent time in the company of unbelievers, of critics, of sinners, and betrayers, He turned no one away. He healed, fed and taught all who came, even those who would reject or betray Him. God is unchanging, He continues to offer Himself for all of us today, all of us. 
 

Behold The Wood Of The Cross


Then, a crucifix was carried to the altar and its purple veil removed as Father declared, “Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Salvation of the world.” Affixed to this 3 foot crucifix was a corpse of our Lord, our Salvation, which we were invited to venerate. Reaching my turn at the head of the communal line, I bent forward, delicately gripped the wood and kissed the carved, pierced feet of my Savior. A sublime moment, when such a little act has the power to release such a flood of mercy.

Returning to my seat, I found myself considering all those horrific news reports and the perpetrators that gave them warrant. Jesus died for them, too. Even if they come late to work in the fields, He promises them the same wage, salvation. Evil will never overpower mercy. The morning’s temptations to despair were arrested in this moment by Truth. While the world may be going mad, evil will be conquered just as it was on Calvary.

The reception of Christ’s Body and Blood followed, increasing my strength and then once again the Good Friday celebration was complete. But left on the altar riser was that crucifix and I found myself wishing to curl up at its foot (I restrained myself for fear spectators would decide I’d finally and completely lost my mind). But, I really wanted to drop there and pray, pray for all those unbelievers, scandal-inducers, lost souls, misguided believers and evil-doers. I realized this was my opportunity to fight back against the madness. I had the power to beg God’s mercy for myself and the whole world.

Truly, it is a Good day this Friday. Each year it opens the doorway to history and allows us to go deeper in our journey. It destroys hopelessness, pours out mercy and prepares us for what is to come on the third day. How can we immerse ourselves, our whole selves, in the intense joy of Easter without first discovering the power of the crucifixion which proceeded it? It is in witnessing the total self-sacrifice of Jesus on that instrument of torture that we can begin to understand (although never fully) the breadth and depth of His love for us all and the resurrecting power of His mercy.