It is Easter Monday as I write this and I had some time yesterday to think about Holy Week, the Tridium and Easter for a reason which I will conclude with. I think this has been one of the best Holy Weeks I have experienced in the thirty-four years of my priestly ministry. For one thing, I preached everything from Palm Sunday through the Easter Vigil. Preaching enforces a certain discipline on a person to concentrate more fully and deeply on the meaning of that which is celebrated and proclaimed. I am very sensitive that because I am the bishop and therefore ipso facto the pastor of the Cathedral parish, I therefore cruise into every major event in the life of the parish and take over from the priests who serve there 24/7/366 [this year]. They get neither the chance to be the principal celebrants of the liturgy nor preach Christmas, Easter, etc. So most years I ask the priests to take one of the days of Holy Week and at least preach it. This year they did not get that chance.
For about three weeksI have been meditating and thinking about the theme per crucem ad lucem or as it is translated into English, “through the cross to the light.” So beginning with Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday I attempted in preaching to lead the people through the cross to the light. I also made it the principal refrain of my Chrism Mass homily which you may have read on this blogspot. I was drawn by the stark contrast between Mark’s passion account read on Palm Sunday and John’s account of the same events read on Good Friday. Mark’s passion account is all darkness, defeat almost. The last words of Jesus are “my God, my God why have you abandoned me?” In John, Jesus controls his final hours. He places Pilate, the religious leaders of his time, his friends on trial and does not allow himself to be placed on trial. His penultimate words are to Mary, his mother, and to John, entrusting us to her and her to him. And when he has decided he has had enough, he controls the moment and says, “it is finished.” Two markedly different approaches to the cross were on display this week, one seemingly suffered and the other seemingly embraced. In the crosses of our life, we more often than not have options also – to suffer them or to embrace them. Both can lead to the light which follows most suffering.
At the Easter Vigil of course I was ready to proclaim as the Liturgy of the Vigil had just done – the light. Earlier in the day I had learned of the death of the American artist Thomas Kincaide who as a Christian believer proclaimed that he was an “artist of the light”. His simple paintings adorn walls, napkins, coffee cups, and are said to have brought in 100 million dollars a year. Imagine all of that for simply showing gardens and fields and churches and cottages in the light. How much more light we have as a result of the events of that first Easter when the women (the men were still in hiding for fear of their lives we are told) discover the empty tomb. The full meaning of that moment will not be totally appreciated until next Sunday’s Gospel account of the immediate appearance to the disciples in the upper room and then the wonderful Emmaeus story. I think, well more humbly, I hope I was able to verbally trace a path through suffering to light for those in attendance at the Cathedral and I am sure that whose who journeyed with us throughout Holy Week are tired of hearing per crucem ad lucem. My thanks to the Rector, Father Joseph Waters and to his associate Father Ken Breen for their patience with me and to all the musicians, altar servers, sacristans and countless others who put themselves out, not for the bishop this last week, but for Jesus.
I ended Holy Week by spending Easter Sunday on the “throne.” By some accident of scheduling, a fault all of my own, I scheduled a colonoscopy for Monday morning at eight o’clock. That meant no food and other distractions all of Easter Sunday and especially in the afternoon and evening. Since my long period of illness began in my colon, an ounce of precaution is worth a lot more than a pound of cure, believe me. Last year, only thirteen months after surgery, there was yet another polyp found and removed. Today, it was all clear. I share this with you because I so intensely believe that with care and regular examinations, colon cancer can be avoided and if caught early enough can be survived. There are too many stories which can cause people to avoid colonoscopy check-ups and I am here to tell you that they are not true. The day of preparation is not nearly as bad as it once was (I know because I have experienced the older prep and the newer prep) and the procedure is simple and safe. Thanks to the wonderful Rays yesterday and an exciting Masters golf tournament, I did not miss Easter dinner and today I learned that it is only through this small cross of prepping that one can come to the light of being found clear of colon cancer. If you are older than fifty and have not had a screening and if you have had a screening but it has been some time ago, please, please see your specialist and inquire if it is time. Bet you didn’t think I would end my Easter reflections in this manner.
Happy Easter season to all. He is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia.