Ripping Off the Altar Cloth | Pt 41

At the conclusion of the Holy Thursday Mass one year, after the priests had gathered up all of the sacred linens (corporals, etc). The priest stood behind the altar and, grabbing the cloth that was adorning it, ripped backwards.

He did this with such a violence and viciousness that it was shocking. The utter silence of the church was suddenly shattered with the almost unbearably loud sound of the cloth billowing and snapping backwards. I remember my shock quite vividly.

The altar is bare. The crosses are removed. The lights dim.

The Lord of the Universe has been killed. The disciples scatter and flee. The tomb is covered by a heavy stone.

These events had a profound impact on me at the time with where I was in the faith, but the further I go, the more I realize that I am in this situation more often than I realize. In silence, I am with Jesus. He calls out to me, and I accept or reject the call. Sometimes I fall asleep, like the disciples in the garden. Sometimes I strike with the sword (not literally, but metaphorically, you know?). Sometimes I flee. But no matter what happens, I have the ability through grace to choose to go to the cross with Jesus, and his mercy extends even to Peter, who denied him so vehemently.

Today is a day for silence, for reflection, and for meditation on the fact that we are truly with Jesus. Nothing that we do is meaningless. For those times we have sent him to the cross and abandoned him, he offers mercy if we would only come to him and be crucified with him.

The world is indeed turned upside-down. It’s not a day to pretend that Jesus is dead, but rather one to recognize that he was. Grace is not cheap. The spiritual life has many consolations, but also many hardships. The times in our lives where we fail have had real consequences-they caused the death of God’s Son.

But where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. The horror of Good Friday and the silence of Holy Saturday bring the promise of Easter Sunday.

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