The stripping of the altars

So then, Maundy Thursday is rapidly turning into Good Friday.

Holy week only really hits home with me at the stripping of the altars. Up till that point I am like the crowd in Jerusalem in the Palm Sunday readings, looking on sometimes with pity and shell shock, sometimes with plain old detachment.

The stripping of the altars wordlessly shows that without the presence of Jesus in our tabernacles all the ways we beautify our sanctuaries are mere frippery. The desolation of gethsemane is all we can think on.

This stripping of the altars also inevitably makes me think of a historical stripping of the altars, the reformation (or the protestant rebellion as Hilaire Belloc rightly calls it), the result of which are many and dire, but are very keenly felt by me at Easter.

Though united by faith in Jesus, me and my immediate family are divided by religion. Knowing people who’s family are atheists I do feel eternally grateful that my family does have the Christian faith. But because Catholics believe so much about the Eucharist and subsequently the importance of being in communion with fellow Christians, the pain of being divided from them is perhaps more keenly felt, and these feelings are amplified tenfold by Maundy Thursday.

I can’t help but feel that many protestants live in quite a bare and perhaps even desolate religion, stripped of everything that they think distracts from God, but which actually points towards Him.

Some protestants don’t even celebrate the Triduum, don’t take this journey in the collective memory of the Church, because they don’t have this collective memory, it has been purged away.

Catholic liturgy is so powerful, if it is entered into fully I believe it puts the participant into the events of Jesus’ time like nothing else. Indeed in the Eucharist we are joined inextricably to the last supper itself, to Gethsemane, to Gol’gotha, to the tomb, and into new life, through Christ.

What a thing we have in the Mass, its depth knows no limit because it is God’s very essence given to us. How rich we are for having such a priceless gift, and we should feel a deep sense of pity for the poverty of protestantism. Not out of any mean spiritedness, rather the love that Christ commands and implored all Christians to have for one another on this very day.

Yes, its that ecumenical event tomorrow, pray I have the strength to get out of bed early to do something I’m not entirely convinced of the merit of. Obedience and humility are the teachings for today though and I’ll be there. Perhaps praying the prayer for England.

Oh and read the pope’s sermon for Holy Thursday, it is stunning and expresses so much of what I would like to express, only I am as eloquent as an angry bull in comparison. In fact I’m tempted to simply delete this post and leave just this link.

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