It's Holy Week.
Yesterday was Holy Thursday, and today is Good Friday.
We went to Mass last night, participated in a pilgrimage of sorts called "Visit to the Seven Churches", and will head back to Church this afternoon for the 3 pm Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. More Good Friday events will follow, this evening.
Last year we were in Ethiopia for Holy Week--Kevin, Mary Lu and I. (And Tigist and Mekdes of course--we were there for their court date though, so they were still living in the orphanage.) It was an amazing time to visit, to see the multitudes crowding into the Orthodox churches, the many beggars stationed outside them in hopes of receiving alms, and the vast number of live chickens and goats for sale everywhere, to be used for Easter feasts.
We lay in bed on Saturday night listening to the deafening chants at Easter Vigil, which started out serious and somber, but as midnight approached became frenzied and happy. I'd never heard anything like it, and I felt as if we'd gotten an intimate glimpse into the highest holy day of their entire year. I lay in bed picturing all of the men and women in traditional dress, heading home to prepare their feasts, celebrating long into the night. It was mysterious. And beautiful.
Then we got up on Easter morning and boarded the first of two flights to Rome. Yes, we arrived in Rome on Easter Sunday--kind of perfect if you ask me. Of course thanks to a ridiculously long layover in Frankfurt, Germany, we didn't actually get in until late that night. (So I guess technically we spent most of Easter Sunday in Germany.)
But Rome was still abuzz with Holy Week pilgrims and it was roughly a week before Blessed John Paul II's beatification, so there were people in town for that too. My heart was touched by the sight of so many consecrated religious from all over the world, come to Rome for Holy Week and/or the beatification. And I was floored by the fact that mere tourists from every corner of the globe were vacationing to see the Sistine Chapel and basilicas like St. John Lateran. Kind of amazing.
To be in the very core of the center of the Christian faith, the place where believers huddled together in the catacombs amidst widespread martyrdom and where St. Peter and St. Paul's remains and relics are entombed, the place from which our very faith spread to the world, was astounding. Especially at such an important time of year. You simply can't see those things and places without it occurring to you that oh my goodness, those stories are real. Jesus entered into history as a man, even though He is God, and lived on this earth and died for the salvation of souls.
Now this year, we're not spending Holy Week amongst the Ethiopian Orthodox in Africa. Nor are we in Rome paying our respects at the tomb of a beloved pope. We're here at home, in Denver, observing the high Holy Days at our local Catholic parish. And so I find myself pondering our travels at this time last year, and thinking that this is a global, communal, open-to-everyone faith that transcends culture, station in life, and race. See I know that Christians the world over will be gathered together at 3 pm today (or at 3 pm on their Friday) to soberly remember the Passion of Jesus. I know that faithful followers of Christ in every nation will celebrate Jesus' rising from the dead at Easter Vigil, culminating in late-night feasting and celebration (and in some places, the slaughtering of chickens and goats).
This whole Easter thing is kind of a big deal. Our world was forever, unalterably changed all those centuries ago, and we will not let people forget. We must not let ourselves forget, because we need Jesus. We need His birth and life and most especially His death and resurrection. Don't believe the lie that the past is irrelevant. History ought not be erased or confined to the dusty corners of a seminary library. No, it bears upon today and upon our very lives, and entering into the Holy Week Triduum year after year will surely ingrain this fact in our hearts, minds and souls.
Whether you're in Addis Ababa, Rome, or Denver.
Wishing you all a blessed, contemplative Good Friday, wherever you are.