Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Day the Lord Has Made

Every Easter I get a uniquely personal treat. I appreciate the chocolate bunnies and jelly beans as much as the next person. But this gift is special and doesn’t come in a basket.

This year it took the form of a startling insight into the liturgy, and of course, into life. In his Good Friday homily Fr. Art Coyle asked if we had ever noticed that the Holy Thursday liturgy has no definitive ending—we process with the Eucharist to the altar of repose, where everyone remains to pray privately. The Good Friday liturgy has no introduction or formal ending; the ministers process and recess in silence. The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday has no specific introduction; the blessing of the new fire and paschal candle ritual replace it. It’s as if the three days meld into one. Karen Sterling, our receptionist, commented that “it even feels like one day.” Historically and liturgically the paschal mystery is one event.

I’d gotten the historical and theological part; I’d just never connected it with the liturgical part. I never appreciated how, even in this, the language of liturgy expresses something so profound, that words could not do justice to the reality; it has to be acted out.
Sr. Irene's planter blooms at the
"right time."

Since antiquity, the Greeks have had two words to distinguish two meanings of time: chronos and kairos. The first indicates measured, chronological time, like “day” in the sense of 24 hours. The second is trickier. It’s not tied to the first, but means “the right time,” like “day” in the sense of the one, perfect moment, when something advantageous can happen.

Kairos testifies that life is not lived solely within the parameters of life’s structures or dynamics; much less is it defined by them. It points to another dimension. There God acts, inspires, directs, saves. It’s not that God doesn’t work through those structures. Just the opposite. Kairos IS salvation: God moves in time, without being constrained by it.

This is the deep meaning of Christ’s Resurrection for the here and now. Because he lives, there is never a chronos that is not also a kairos. Regardless of what my conscience charges me with, there is never a moment of my life when God cannot save me (1Jn. 3:20): “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation” (2Cor. 6:2). Hope. This is the gift wrapped in the “day” of salvation. It’s not for nothing that during Easter Week the Church sings Psalm 118: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”

When our friend Patrick Hitchcock was in college, he stopped going to church for awhile. As he gradually felt the gnawing hunger for God in his life, he went back. Now, as an investment advisor in California, he’s making his own connection between the “day” of liturgy and the “day” of life. He told me that together with Easter Sunday, the symbolism in Good Friday’s Veneration of the Cross is always the high point in his observance of Holy Week. “It’s a physical thing to kiss the cross. It’s a stark reminder that [Christ’s] passion was such that he allowed himself to be crucified for us. What more can someone do than give his life for someone else? Mary washed his feet with her tears. What more can we do symbolically to say that through the cross and resurrection is salvation? It leaves me kind of breathless, really. It’s an acknowledgement of our utter helplessness without Christ.”

As you flip on the right sidebar through the photo slideshow of our Holy Week/Easter Week celebration in Boston, may you see your own faith and hope mirrored there. May they always be your life.                                                      
Sunday, May 1, is a moment of another kind: Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. During the Second World War, six million Jews and up to four million other unwanted and unvalued human beings were systematically eliminated, including political and religious prisoners. Dachau alone held 3,000 Catholic deacons, priests, and bishops, some of whom were ordained behind Nazi backs. That number does not include the vast number of laity and religious. I remember meeting a man in Cleveland, who had been a 16-year-old guard in one camp that had held 300 nuns at the time of his conscription. One has been canonized so far, Jewish Edith Stein, who also became Carmelite Sr. Benedicta of the Cross.

A holocaust of an even larger scale, a real global genocide, is the subject of yet another film from Spirit Juice Studios, to premiere in Chicago also on May 1. Sure to be controversial, To Be Born  communicates something about the uniqueness of each human life.

To Be Born is about a young woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy who seeks to have an abortion. In the midst of the procedure, she finds herself in a regrettable situation when she hears her unborn daughter begin to describe the chilling details of what is happening. Film and screening details: or!/tobeborn.
In the midst of this, a kairos moment. We love any excuse for a party: birthdays, anniversaries, beatifications, holidays….

Wait. Back up. Beatifications? As in Blessed John Paul II? That’s right. How could the U.S. publisher of his documents, audiences, and even a few biographies (including some for kids) not celebrate the day he’s held up internationally as a model to imitate and a Christian to venerate. As if most of us in the world didn’t recognize that already. But Sunday it’ll be official. With canonization sometime in the future, he’ll be listed on the Church’s honor roll, inducted in heaven’s hall of fame. But beatification is the word for now: He’s made the grade. And we intend to celebrate, first on Sunday as a community, and then Monday, with our 45 lay co-workers at Pauline Books & Media. Got any ideas for your own party?


  1. Lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Always on point, informative, and interesting to read!

  3. Thank you, Lisa. Be sure to check out tomorrow's post (Pray I can publish it on time) on Catherine of Siena, Osama Bin Laden, and Jose Maria Escriva. Quite a triumvirate!


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