Shadows Print
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 05 April 2007 12:44

This morning, the Dominican community - friars, sisters, laity - along with several dozen students, faculty, and city workers celebrated a simplified form of the ancient liturgy of Tenebrae (latin for "shadows"). It is a combination of office of readings and lauds (at least as the Dominicans in my Province celebrate it), with readings typically from the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah, although this morning we heard from a homily from one of the Church fathers instead. It is another example of a carefully crafted, highly symbolic liturgy that we Catholics are known for. You can read more about it in here.

What struck me about the liturgy was the powerful language of abandonment throughout most of the service, yet every day ends the same, with a psalm of hope, looking forward to the Resurrection. During the chanting of one of the psalms of despair we could hear jets flying overhead from the local military base, and suddenly for me, the psalms were transformed from an ancient lament applied to Jesus to a contemporary lament that I could sing on the part of my brothers and sisters around the world whose lives have been violently disrupted by falling bombs, sniper fire, suicide bombers, anti-personnel bombs disguised as dolls, and small arms fire.

In the ongoing agony of a world so battered by human hatred and rage, we look to the agony of Christ on the cross, and see His sharing in our suffering - and dying for the sins that cause such suffering - as a sign of hope. In Jesus, God chose to walk in the midst of our self-destructive behavior, clothed in our humanity, wrapped in our fragility and impermanence. Knowing He was to be betrayed and abandoned by His closest friends, He washed their feet as a silent testimony and example of how they were to live. With His Passion closing in upon Him, He chose to break bread with them one last time and invited them to share in His life as they drank His blood from a common cup and became one with Him and each other as they shared His body-become-food.

These next three days are painful and uncomfortable for those of us for whom life is sweet. It's tempting to look past them to the joy and promise of Easter. They are a reminder that sorrow and pain are a part of life, but not the last word. But too many of our brothers and sisters continue to share in Christ's Passion on a daily basis, and our failure to notice is to be like the apostles who slept through Gethsemane, and fled from Jesus' side when the powers of this world got the upper hand. These days demand we take notice of their suffering, and resolve to see it as Christ's, and ask if we have the courage and grace to step out from the shadows and confront the powers of this world - especially when we benefit from those powers.