Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”
– Matthew 26:38
So ends Lent. And so begins the Triduum*. I love Maundy Thursday (even though it’s the start of the Passion). I love the transferral of the Blessed Sacraments to the Altar of Repose, capturing Gethsemane so tangibly. I love how so many people come down all the way to church just to spend time staying and praying with Jesus. Even at 11pm, you see all sorts of people streaming in – young, old, parents with kids, parents with parents, teens in school uniforms, adults in office attire etc. Most of all, I love how it’s such a perfect time for reflecting on Lent.
I sat in an empty pew last night, alone, despite the many friends scattered all around church. I entered church after the crowd had gone in already, so I didn’t see where everyone went. I couldn’t also, since the lighting was so dim. And I guess I didn’t really try very hard. It’s not about being anti-social (though most other times it would be). It’s about finding that poignant moment between loneliness and communion – that we can perhaps call ‘solitude’ – to be alone with God. This is, after all, Gethsemane.
So with the Taize chant ‘Stay with me’ ringing in my mind, I prayed. I reflected. I conversed. It’s different, you know, from doing something like a examen of consciousness, or a scripture reflection, or writing a spiritual post, or fasting. These things help us to know about God. Whereas in the rare Gethsemane-type moments of solitude, we get to know God.
This is cliche stuff – the distinction between knowing about God and knowing God. I know this at the back of my hand; it’s what I teach confirmands etc. There’s nothing very insightful about such a realization. It’s the classic Pharisaic sin. And yet, I did it, again. I missed the mark, the real treasure, the wood for the trees. Somehow, amidst the fasting, the verse-finding, the blogposting, God lost His place at the centre of all of this along the way.
So this realization comes along with a healthy dose of bittersweetness. Bitterness, because 37 days could have been better spent to prepare more properly. But sweetness, because I still have 3 days, arguably the most significant three, to re-focus, re-realize, and re-discover – what Lent is, what the Passion is, what the Resurrection is, and most importantly, who He is.
*Note: Wiki says that Vatican II defined Good Friday and Holy Saturday as the first two days of the Easter Triduum, rather than the last two days of Lent but Lenten observances are maintained until the Easter Vigil.