Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Into the Mystery

It's become something of a tradition in these parts... so yet again it's time for the annual reminder that the Top Story of this Holy Week is The Story in which everything else that ends up on these pages is rooted: that is, the Paschal Mystery.

To keep anything lesser from getting in its way, aside from the papal homilies at the Triduum liturgies (and maybe a reflection or two), posting will be suspended during the calendar's holiest and most solemn days.

Just in case anyone could use 'em, though, meditation materials are out there... and there's no better place to start than with a generation's favorite preacher, in his final turn at the Seven Last Words:

When it comes to real-time, real-world reflections, the market's been brilliantly cornered by the blogging pastors of the East: Frs Milt Jordan of DC's Our Lady of Victory and Austin Fleming of Holy Family in Concord, Mass. Both these guys performed an immense service by composing daily reflections all through this Lent, all atop the demands of non-virtual ministry. They deserve churchloads of thanks. Other sets of reflections and resources have been compiled by the USCCB, the Franciscans of St Anthony Messenger and the Jesuits at Creighton University in Omaha.

Turning to things visible and audible, Salt + Light's Fr Tom Rosica CSB on Holy Thursday....

...and Good Friday.

For things high cere, EWTN will yet again be double-dipping with live and encored webstreams of the Triduum rites from Vatican and Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, alongside a full roster of musical and devotional programming; check schedule for details. And for a more local flavor, a handful of dioceses will be streaming their cathedral rites, including the aforementioned Salt Lake and Boston, home of the great folks at BCTV... and your narrator's latest rare on-camera appearance.

Without even standing, you can transport yourself to Taizé through its songs and podcasts. And live from Gotham, The Catholic Channel (159) on Sirius Satellite Radio will be running the liturgies from St Patrick's Cathedral and other sites across the country over the coming days. (Hot tip: register for the free three-day pass to listen online... and, looking forward for a moment, the subscription provider will be devoting multiple channels to its coverage of next month's papal visit.)

* * *
For all the links, however, something important to keep in mind.

The News of these days is, of course, no ordinary chronicle. Yet while that's true in more ways than one, among the most oft-overlooked aspects of its uniqueness is that the work of "moving the story" isn't something that falls to one person or a small group, and can never be seen as the province of the "pros."

It seems a really well-kept secret, but contrary to the attitude still evidenced in some quarters, all of us (i.e. the church) actually are in the communications business. (No, that doesn't mean we need a new springtime PR consultants and costly initiatives... if anything, that'd just prolong "winter" even more.) Just as the whole point of this life is to become a "living gospel," so the most important and needed storytellers for what these days are and why they're so important aren't the folks in the studios, the pulpits or headquarters of any sort, but you and me (i.e. all of us).

Most of us will spend much of these days in churches large and small around the world... but keep in mind, too, that less of what we recall took place in the rarefied milieu of the Temple than in the chaotic, rule-free open. It happened in bustling streets, buzzing conversation-circles and before charged crowds, yet reached its apex in a place outside the city completely accessible to all, but to which few dared to go. And in the process, it wasn't the consecrated inside but the "profane" outside that saw this week become holy, transforming its ordinary steps and unremarkable sights into sacred ground.

And, well, it's our job -- our challenge -- to be there, to follow that uncomfortable path, to give its tragic scenes the difficult gift (indeed, the sacrifice) of our presence, to do so with open eyes and to literally take whatever the crowd might toss at us, not just this week but always.

Sure, it's a challenge... but Another endured worse. Sure, it's a sacrifice... but that's the price of admission. The rest, as they say, is worth it.

Making that known is the task always before us. But before we can do anything for anyone else with any hope of success or effectiveness, we've gotta do it for ourselves. In that light, may these days of grace be for each of you, those you love and those you serve an experience of great peace, strength, renewal, and everything else you're looking for in the journey.

Church, may we never let this week's Big News sound like old news... and day by day, cross by cross, may it become ever less The Story and ever more Our Story, our life, and our hope.

God love ya, gang.