The Second Vatican Council’s document on the Sacred Liturgy reminds us that “the church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery, reading those things ‘which were in all the scriptures concerning him’ (Lk 24:27), celebrating the Eucharist in which ‘the victory and triumph of his death are again made present,’ and at the same time ‘giving thanks to God for his inexpressible gift’ (1 Cor 9:15) in Christ Jesus, ‘in praise of his glory’ (Eph 1:12) through the power of the Holy Spirit” (n. 6).
This celebration of our Lord’s paschal mystery is what makes the week we are now beginning holy, the summit of the church’s life.
That word paschal reminds us that Jesus’ entire life was directed toward the gift of himself in love to the Father for us. Because, as Fleming Rutledge points out in her fine book The Crucifixion, “the life of Jesus is single-mindedly directed toward his self-offering…His death…was the willed culmination of that life of self-giving for our good” (p. 31). His resurrection was the Father’s embrace of that gift in joy and faithfulness.
That word mystery reminds us that this act of love is not confined to history, but is a present reality. As the biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson points out, “Christian faith has never—either at the start or now—been based on historical reconstructions of Jesus, even though Christian faith has always involved some historical claims concerning Jesus. Rather, Christian faith (then and now) is based on religious claims concerning the present power of Jesus…Christian faith is not directed to a human construction about the past: that would be a form of idolatry. Authentic Christian faith is a response to the living God, whom Christians declare is powerfully at work among them through the resurrected Jesus” (The Real Jesus, 133, 143). Mystery is the present experience of a once for all event acting powerfully in our lives today.
Please do what you can to find your way to church this Holy Week for the various celebrations of our Lord’s paschal mystery. Open yourself to the act of love in which Jesus offers himself to the Father for us present here and now in love and power, to heal and save, to empower and send forth on mission.