Joy and the Cross

by Brendan Parlett
There is an atmosphere of anticipation at the seminary during Holy Week. In the few days before we return to our home parishes for the Triduum, our brothers discuss travel plans and liturgy schedules. There is a joy in the house. This joy isn’t merely because classes are canceled, road trips are beginning, and we will see friends and family soon. No, the joy is rooted in the event that takes place today: Christ’s crucifixion.

Lent is about anticipation and preparation. Through our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving we empty ourselves a little more so our hearts can stretch to receive the grace the Lord offers us in the Paschal mystery. These preparations are no doubt difficult, and Lent and Good Friday are austere, yet they are occasions for rejoicing. We rejoice because we know what is to come.

Lent does not end with the cross. If it did, what took place on Calvary would be a simple tragedy. Instead, Jesus’ death on the cross is the most critical event in history and is celebrated accordingly. Anticipating this festival during evening prayer, we sing the words of an ancient Lenten hymn:

But now let every heart prepare,
By sacrifice of fast and prayer,
To keep with peace and joy untold
The solemn Easter festival.

This hymn turns our eyes to the meaning of the cross, the solemn Easter festival, that is, the resurrection. During Lent we must prepare by examining our consciences sincerely and recognizing the gravity of our sin. We must know our sinfulness and see how Jesus takes it upon his shoulders as he walks the via dolorosa. We do so to prepare for Calvary, but while looking towards the joy of the resurrection.

“Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” – Hebrews 12:2

Jesus knew the joy that was to come, and he knew the suffering. At the will of the Father and for our sake, he endured his suffering and death anyway. Jesus looked towards the joy of the resurrection, and so should we. He thought of each of us individually. He looked to the joy of our salvation. The joy that my brothers and I have during this blessed week is a foretaste of this ultimate joy, anticipating what is to come on Saturday evening.

Mr. Parlett is a Second Pre-Theology seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington.


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