Preparing for the celebration of Easter it strikes me once again how out of tune much of our liturgical music is with the great message that Christ has risen. Through the unfolding passion narrative of Holy Week Christians are immersed in the funerary rites of the messiah who is, to them, both priest and victim. Entering with him into Jerusalem on Passion Sunday, we are brought to the upper room where we share a last meal with him before he suffers, before accompanying him in the dark to the place of his torture and trial, until at last we watch on as he is crucified and then buried. Altars are stripped bare, and the vestments are removed; this is the immolation of our hope. On the third day the women break the news that he is not dead – he has risen as he said, and our hymns, our songs of Easter praise, almost always manage to sound hollow. Leaving the theological significance aside (as ultimately that is a mystery), if we ponder the psychology of our Triduum and Easter we might be tempted to say that the anti-climax of the empty tomb is indicative and an incomplete catharsis; an imperfect sacrifice.
Perhaps we have found ourselves divorced from the drama of the Passion; that this is an event of which we are mere witnesses – onlookers or casual observers. Frequently I do feel that this is how it is for me. That for some reason the ritual has malfunctioned, and has failed to carry me along with it into the heart of the mystery. All of the human condition, we are told, is caught up in our victim. He is sharing our lot, and we, through baptism, are caught up in him – and this propitiatory offering. My fear is that it is my spirit that slips out of gear; my own devotion and prayer lacks the intensity required to be caught up. So much of the reality of our own human experience is neglected by the ritual, and we are left wanting. Translating this conflict in reality to the grammar of ascent it may be the case that we face a spiritual struggle we find too difficult to overcome in order to align ourselves with the paschal mysteries. We begin our prayers, “Let us pray…” and leap straight to orison. Hinduism begins prayer by launching an assault on our distractions, and our spiritual foes. Sri Ganesha is invoked at batter down all obstacles to worship before the temple service continues. It may make sense for us too to find some heavenly battering ram in our preparations for prayer.