Next Sunday will be Passion Sunday, and with it will begin our celebration of the week we as Catholic Christians call, Holy. We will for the first time, as we are right now journey into the Mystery we have all been baptized into. Connecting that reality to the reality of our daily living is a great ongoing challenge. To make our journey with The Suffering Servant an ever deepening one, I hope and pray this will be of some help.
The Pascal Mystery transforms, transfigures and leads an always and new and different way of living. It bestows on us the great gift of hope, that death is not, “the final word on life or despair the final days of human beings”. [Boff] As we make our journey into the light of the resurrection, we will be led again and again to the understanding that out of all of our pain, sorrow, and brokenness, comes new life and wonderful gifts. We will be led to the belief that the “greater the wound, the greater the pain…the greater the gift”. That is why each year, we are “dipped and dyed” in the Pascal Mystery to be awakened and to celebrate the new life that has come to us from what we thought was death. Death is never the end, it is always the beginning.
The Pascal Mystery is first and foremost a mystery. This mystery teaches that with every beginning there is an ending and with every ending there is a new beginning. It is a mystery dealing with the deepest working of God's grace. A mystery dealing with death, burial and new life. A spiritual mystery such as this cannot be explained, it can only be entered into and treated with reverence. I would like to suggest this year, more than ever, we need to open ourselves up to what this week offers in the way of hope, consolation and the promise of radical new life. This will come to us through the power of honesty, honesty about our everyday experience. There can be no spiritual growth unless we are developing a progressive honesty which is about embracing what is real. Where there is no honesty, there is no reality. So, there is no God. When we want to get a grip on reality and the Pascal Mystery within us, here are a number of words you and I cannot have in our vocabulary, the following are many words which have no connection with reality:
could, would, should, what if, if, if only, when, ought, try, interesting, or any similar words used to deny our real feelings and our real emotions.
A number of years ago, I read a book by Fr. Ronald Holheiser which enabled me to enter into a new and better life-giving understanding of what the Pascal Mystery is all about. In his book, The Holy Longing, he explains the difference between terminal death and Pascal death. "Terminal death is a death that ends life and then possibility. Pascal death, like terminal death, is real, however, Pascal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens a person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life. The image of the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying so as to produce new life is an image of Pascal death. Then resurrected life...is the reception of a radically new life... The Pascal Mystery is about Pascal death and resurrected life."
Continuing on, in the same chapter entitled "The Spirituality of the Pascal Mystery", we read the following:
The Pascal Mystery might be diagrammed as follows:
1) Good Friday...The loss of life-real death
2) Easter Sunday..."the reception of new life"
3) The Forty Days..."a time for readjustment to the new, and grieving the old"
4) Ascension..."letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to claim"
5) Pentecost..."the reception of new spirit, for the new life that one is already living"
Put into a more colloquial language and stated as personal Pascal challenge for each one of us, one might recap this diagram this way:
1) "Name of your death"
2) "Claim your birth"
3) "Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality"
4) "Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing"
5) "Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living"
This cycle is not something we must undergo just once...It is rather something we must undergo daily, in every aspect of our lives. Christ spoke of many deaths, of daily deaths and of many risings and various Pentecosts. The Pascal Mystery is the secret to life. Ultimately, our happiness depends upon properly undergoing it... Unless we die in infancy, we will have many deaths in our lives and within each one of these we must receive new life and new spirit. Daily we must undergo the Pascal Mystery.
In her book, Little Pieces of Light, Sister Joyce has this to say, "Being able to let go and let God take over one's life demands a tremendous amount of trust in this Divine Companion. Thomas Merton writes that, 'True love and prayer are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart turns to stone'. It is in within the hour of our greatest darkness that we discovered that we are never really alone. It is a time when we learn to trust as Gods love is much more than we ever imagined." This gives us the great freedom to be able to sing our Hallelujahs with real gusto. Death has turned into life. Christ is risen and is alive within you and me.
"O happy fault of Adam that has revealed to us such a God."