My life comes down to a few days, captured for me between Holy Thursday and Easter morning. Every year, I say that to myself, and every year I marvel at the ongoing truth – that what I value most about my life, about this world, about eternity is summed up in barely half of one week.
As Catholics, we know the stories (and I use that word in the most general of ways) by heart, have heard them since we were carted to Mass as children. Who cannot see Jesus breaking bread with his followers or shiver at the thought of him washing his disciples’ feet? Who cannot hear a whip cutting his skin or see him suffering on a cross? Who cannot marvel at the empty tomb, a small pile of cloth to one side?
The stories never age, and the miracles of them never stop. I doubt we ever walk more closely with Jesus than we do at this time, knowing what came, knowing what he suffered, grateful that he gave his life for us.
I am compelled on those days to be in God’s house as much as possible, with people who share my beliefs, and it is a primal thing. I do not go because I should go, I go because I must go for reasons beyond church rules, for a calling from and yearning for God.
My routine is the same every year. Church Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning. Holy Thursday with family and friends. Easter morning with family and friends. Good Friday, different, always by myself even in a crowd, even with those I care about several pews away in our beloved church, because I cannot bear to be with anyone else on Good Friday. Good Friday, I must isolate myself. I must be only with him.
I’d freeze Holy Week if I could, preserve the Triduum, but I suppose that would be wrong. We need to prepare for those holiest of days with Lent, and we need to anticipate, mourn and celebrate during them before we move on to the rest of the days that God also wants us to treasure.
But I always will believe that the other 360-some days of the year are something of a forward and an afterword to all that matters of life. And for me, the whole of my own life comes down to what he has given us in those few days.
Patricia Quigley of Incarnation Parish, Mantua, is a freelance writer.