Sunday starts the marathon. I might as well just set up a cot and sleep at church.
This year, as in previous years, Kate and I are sponsors for a program called RCIA - the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. What it means is that for the six months leading up to Easter, we have spent a lot of time with about twenty adults, ranging from their late teens to seventy or thereabouts, who are joining the Catholic Church. This coming week starts the culmination of that process, which involves a long service on Sunday, another long service on Thursday, another long service on Friday, and then a ridiculously long service Saturday night that stretches into very early Easter Sunday morning. In between, there is food to prepare for the early a.m. Sunday feast, robes (not for me; for the new kids on the block) to wash and iron, a couple rehearsals, and a six-hour retreat on Saturday morning and afternoon before the ridiculously long service Saturday evening. There is also work, which is still very much full time, and which is particularly crazy right now. Work tends to view these days in terms of Thursday, Friday, etc.
The Thursday/Friday/Saturday slugfest is known as the Triduum, Latin "tri" for three, "duum" for "Oh my God, forget about sleeping." They are my three favorite days of the year, and this remains a profound mystery akin to the full divinity and humanity of Christ and the popularity of Britney Spears. But it's true. I am so thankful for the richness and beauty of the liturgy, for the freshness and vitality of people, young and old(er), who willingly enter into this, who take on the sometimes burdensome obligations and still find joy in them. I am thankful for college students and grizzled, world-weary corporate executives who have decided to change course midway and sometimes a lot farther than midway through the race.
In the space of seven days, we will hear the old, old story, move from palm branches and celebratory acclamation to betrayal, rejection, crucifixion; eventually, after darkness and silence, resurrection. I am always shocked by the juxtapositions until I actually look at my own life, which has sometimes moved from celebratory acclamation to betrayal and rejection. On Palm Sunday various members of the congregation read the story of Christ's Passion aloud, and the murderous crowd is always played by us, the rabble in the pews/Samsonite chairs. "Crucify him!" we cry out; I cry out. I hate it, not because I could never cry out such murderous sentiments in real life, but because I could.
So I am all the more thankful for these new kids; 19 and 70 and everything in between. They remind me of the cost, and the joy, of attempting to live this way. It's a big deal. I'm grateful I get to play a part in it. And I'll be dog-tired at the end of the process, and very happy.
All the Diamonds