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Immerse Yourself in the Paschal Mystery

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By Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC (Mar 5, 2018)
Each Lent, we have an opportunity to repent and turn away from sin, so that we might encounter the fullness of life revealed in Jesus Christ. That process of conversion, or metanoia, inevitably entails some amount of suffering; it is not easy to leave sin behind. But without parting from sin, we can never encounter the glory of the Resurrection.

Lent, which began on Feb. 14, culminates in the Paschal Triduum, specifically with the Last Supper of Holy Thursday, the Passion of Good Friday, and the silence at the tomb of Holy Saturday. Then, during the Easter Vigil, we all renew our baptismal vows; having shed sin, we enter into Easter through the new life of the Resurrection given us in Baptism.

Baptism is thus like a "hinge" between Lent and Easter, between the suffering of converting from sin and the joy of new life. Being Baptized thus immerses us in this Paschal Mystery of Christ, of suffering and death that leads to life. Now, everyone on this earth suffers; that is the unfortunate situation of humanity. However, not all suffering is redemptive; only if our broken hearts open up in trust to the Father, like Mary at the Cross, can suffering be redemptive.

It is precisely the example of Mary at the Cross that we are all called to participate in the Passion. Furthermore, the more we participate in the Passion, the more we will participate in the Resurrection (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 446). Hence, even though the sacrifice of Christ is once and for all, we, the Church, His Body, are called to continually fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ — the offering of our sufferings in union with His, which can bring about the salvation of sinners (see Diary, 1032).

But how exactly do we participate in the Passion? First of all, we don't need to travel thousands of miles to find our own Calvary; likely, you could name multiple problems in your life right now. Secondly, it is helpful to have a guide to teach us how to suffer.

As I mentioned in last month's feature, the "Secret to Lent," St. Faustina had various ways of participating in the Passion, from the extremely simple and practical to the mystical. The simple means included meditating on the Passion while she ate her meals (see Diary, 618). The mystical graces St. Faustina received included suffering His five wounds (see Diary, 1055). Most of us are not given such mystical graces, but the practice of simple penances are important because the goal of meditation on the Passion is not merely to think about the sufferings of Jesus, but like St. Paul, to imitate them. Learning to see everyday life in light of the Passion will help the Passion become less of an abstract construct or event that happened long ago and more something that we live — or more properly, that Jesus relives in us, since we are members of His Body through Baptism.

Last but not least, is simple prayer itself, which Jesus states is more fruitful than many penances perfunctorily performed (see Diary, 369). One of my favorite quotes on how to meditate on the Passion comes from St. Paul of the Cross, who said, "Build an oratory within yourself, and there have Jesus on the altar of your heart. Speak to Him often while you are doing your work ... When you are alone in your room, take your crucifix, kiss its five wounds reverently, tell it to preach to you a little sermon, and then listen to the words of eternal life that it speaks to your heart; listen to the pleading of the thorns, the nails, the precious Blood. Oh, what an eloquent sermon!"

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