I remember walking into the dilapidated, former gymnasium next to Moreau Seminary at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. I was an undergraduate preparing to enter our novitiate in Colorado. Graduate seminarians told me about an entire room filled with old steamer trunks. So I talked a classmate into going with me deep into the storage room in the old gym. We shoved an old wooden door out of our way. The musty door gave way to an entire room filled with large black trunks from seminarians and priests from the 1930’s and 1940’s
We retrieved a suitable black trunk, standing well over knee high. The lid was unlocked; the large silver fasteners were easily opened. We peered inside almost hoping to find a secret treasure. The interior was completely clean and dry, almost like new. This steamer trunk was perfect for my trek across the country for a year of prayer and discernment.
In prior years, the trunk carried all of the possessions of a professed religious brother or priest. Needless to say, the trunk was only one container next to various suitcases, cardboard boxes and duffel bags that I hauled with me. I could never have imagined carrying all my earthly possessions in one hand-me down trunk I found in an old musty storage unit.
I still have the old trunk after nearly forty years. It reminds me to live a simpler, more intentional life. Now, my heart aches to let go of many possessions that seem to shelter me from God’s grace, from living an authentic life. I want less so I can love more.
We begin the Triduum surrendering to God. The purpose of our Lenten journey and living a life of prayer is learning to simplify our approach to offering every aspect of our lives to God. There is nothing hidden away that cannot be forgiven, loved and made new. We are caretakers of the mystery we celebrate. We must constantly surrender to this mystery, to let go of all that shrouds our perspectives and hinders our relationship with God.
We prepare the Triduum letting go of the heavy notion that we are correct about every issue of prayer and worship. We shed the weight of thinking that we alone know what is best for our people in prayer. We die to ourselves and rise in the beauty of surprise, generosity, and wisdom. This is our prayer during these ancient holy days.
Our files or notes from previous years’ Triduum celebrations do not contain the wisdom to make our common prayer vital, real, honest and connected to people. There is no single rehearsal, liturgical prop, or how-to list from last year that will set our people free or unburden their lives. We are called to first enter what we celebrate and surrender to grace given us. We release our pride and foibles into God’s generous love for us.
The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper opens us to real vulnerability and surrender. We offer our feet to Christ’s loving hand and our hearts as well. We surrender our entire selves to serve Christ Jesus. Our crippling cynicism often negates this surrender to wash filthy feet. We need to ponder the texts, feel the gestures and see this vision of ministry for our own lives. Preparing these liturgies must begin with our own need for God, realizing that we need God to cleanse our feet so we may do so for others.
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion calls us to die to ourselves, surrender our grief, anger and hardships to follow Christ. This liturgy is not a skit or childish play. This liturgy invites us into the suffering of our people. We carry the cross together when we celebrate this liturgy with integrity, honesty, reverence and simplicity.
The Easter Vigil begins in the darkness of our own longing. We carry the burdens that we know keep us in the dark. We wait with others to listen again to our salvation story. We find our place in God’s creation by affirming our neighbors. We wait for the blessing of baptismal water to well up within us. Our silence longs to be anointed again by the Holy Spirit who moves us from selfishness toward justice and love. We stand at the altar hungry to belong in the Church, to find our place at table within God’s gentle love for us.
We must let go of many things in order to live in the dying and rising of Christ Jesus. Christ challenges us to let go of our many possessions so we may walk with people in poverty. Christ heals our inner burdens so that we can carry the cross for people who suffer. Christ offers us love in our emptiness so that we may receive others in bountiful love, forgiveness and peace.
I am finally old enough to want to live a simpler life. I want to disregard the possessions that distract me from the real mission of Christ’s love in my life. I am a slow learner. I am learning the wisdom of the single trunk. I come once again to the Triduum sorting out what is most important to carry on the journey for all the people with whom I serve.