By David Philippart
Sunday, April 9, 2017
We come to the heart of our year together as Old Saint Patrick’s Church. When the sun sets Thursday, we begin our annual three-day celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a historical event—it happened in the past and once for all times. Christ lives forever, and will never suffer and die again. But our celebration is not a historical acting out—like the kind you might experience at Medieval Times in Schaumburg, or a Civil War battle reenactment in Naperville. The suffering, dying, and rising of Christ is a living reality in our midst. We experience it every day, and hold it as holy every Sunday when the Word of God calls us together and we offer up our lives to God under the signs of the bread and wine, lifting up our hearts. (For then we receive back from God the Body and the Blood of Christ under those same signs—our lives made holy. You are what you eat—and drink!)
And we come to know the suffering, dying and rising of Christ as a living reality in our midst through the 11 who will be baptized, anointed with chrism, and nourished with the true breakfast of champions, the eucharist, next Saturday night. Lauren, Michael and Kathryn, Zachary, Tamika, Christine, and Shea; Catherine, Phillip, Stephanie and Christopher will die to themselves Saturday night, here in our lovely holy place, and rise to new life as Christians, “other Christs,” joining us in our work to repair and renew the world. This is a mighty thing God is doing, and through us. And do you know what? Even if you haven’t met a single one of these 11 people yet, it doesn’t matter. Their dying and rising has a profound impact on us all, who, come Easter Sunday will stand before God and renew our own baptismal promises for another year. “They” are “us!”
My friend Linda in Santa Barbara said it best. (She is an artist. In fact, she did the art on the cover and in the book of the scripture readings that we use here at Mass on Sundays—the lectionary. It’s on the ambo before and after Mass on Sunday—take a look some time!) Years ago, Linda was sitting at the Easter Vigil at her church with her husband as each person was doused in the death-dealing, life-giving waters of baptism, one after the other. She felt the significance of the moment and the tears spilled down her cheek. A somewhat stoic man of Nordic ancestry, Linda’s husband leaned over and whispered, “Why are you crying? You don’t even know these people!” “Maybe not,” Linda replied, “but sometimes water is thicker than blood.”
The waters of baptism establish a bond between us even more powerful than biology. Strangers are in truth now brothers and sisters. Orphans are daughters and sons of God. On a chilly April night, we come to see in these 11 dripping, shivering, shiny young adults icons—sacred images—of Jesus. Jesus, who suffered horribly in agony. Jesus, who died and was buried. Jesus, who rose again from the dead and proves once and for all times that hatred, suffering, and death never get to win.
And there’s even more. With the Living God, there is always more! Sixteen folks already baptized into this mystery by other Christian communities will profess faith with the Catholic tradition, be confirmed and welcomed to Christ’s table, too.
This is a mighty work that God is doing, and through us! No wonder it takes three nights and a day! Come find your place in the mystery. Come share supper with each other this Thursday at 6 PM. (Reservations are needed by tomorrow: Go to www.osp.org and follow the links.) Come wash each other’s feet. (Jesus says unless we allow each other to wash our feet, we have no part in him. When Peter says, “Then not only my feet, but my head and whole body!” Jesus reminds him that we who have been washed—as you and I have been in baptism—need only have our feet washed and wash those of others.) Come keep watch until midnight. Then come back on Friday. Listen to the story. Take up the cross with a kiss. Come Saturday night! Dark, light, fire, water, life, death, new life, bread, wine, the Body and the Blood, a new beginning. And top it off Sunday—crowds and carriage rides, lilies and laughter, bright songs and the beginnings of encounters and the birth of a new kinship almost too wonderful to imagine. Old Saint Patrick’s, let’s enter the Three Days!
David Philippart, Old St. Patrick’s Liturgy Director, may be reached at email@example.com or 312-831-9367.