Thursday, March 28, 2013

Baby's First Holy Triduum


Holy Thursday - the start of a three day liturgical season and a day that never fails to pull me deeper into the events that led to Jesus' death and resurrection.

Da Vinci's depiction of The Last Supper

I'll be honest when I say that this year's Lent hasn't exactly been the most profound spiritual experience of my life. I've always been good about keeping Lenten promises or goals, but this year I think the few things I decided on were almost too easy.... So yes, I did them, but fulfilling simple or easy goals doesn't typically quench the thirst for something deeper. This means I continue to feel as if I'm in the desert - thirsting and thirsting for more. Although St. Augustine once said,

"The desire is thy prayers; and if thy desire is without ceasing, thy prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer."

Fortunately for myself (and anyone else who has struggled to stay focused or on top of their prayer life this Lenten season), we have the Triduum. In my experience, even the years in which I don't manage to take big strides in my relationship with Christ during Lent God still manages to bless me with powerful experiences, prayers, or emotions during those three days of the Last Supper, the Passion, and His death and resurrection.

Tonight's Mass of the Lord's Supper did not disappoint and helped to quell that thirsting and longing I've felt for the past 40(ish) days. Not only did Father give an inspiring homily (he shared with us a Maundy Thursday miracle Jesus had blessed a parishioner of his previous parish with), but experiencing Holy Thursday with our baby boy in the womb led to more than one affective moment.

When I approached Father B. for communion this evening, nothing out of the ordinary happened...until he - just as I was about to walk away - gave our child a blessing. Up until this point I've never received communion from Fr. B. at a time when I've been "showing" enough for my pregnancy to be obvious. Because of this, I was completely caught off guard and almost walked away too soon. But before I did, he made the sign of the cross over my belly and said, "May God bless and protect you." 

I especially loved that the blessing was clearly directed towards the baby (and not myself).

As soon as I got back to our pew and began to kneel and pray the baby started up with his happy, fluttery kicks. The reality of this may have been that he was getting hungry (the washing of the feet always makes for a long Mass) and my receiving communion made him happy, but I chose to instead reflect on the fact that our baby boy was happily moving around moments after I received the body and blood of Christ - and after he received his very first blessing from a priest. As I continued to pray I could hardly do anything but smile because of this.

At the end of Mass we joined in the Maundy Thursday procession to the altar of repose as we sung St. Thomas Aquinas' "Pange Lingua." As soon as we reached the altar (which was set up in a large room in the school) I was relieved to see they had a decent amount of chairs on one side for anyone who could not easily kneel. I claimed a chair as Michael knelt down beside me.

The "Pange Lingua" ended and we began the hauntingly beautiful song I cannot get enough of each year:

"Stay here with me
Remain here with me
Watch and pray
Watch and pray"

We began singing this before the Blessed Sacrament and bam - I felt the most intense kicks this little boy has ever had. This went on for at least 20 seconds so I reached for Michael's hand and placed it where I felt the movement (so he could experience the intensity behind these unusually strong kicks, too). Naturally, as soon as I did this the baby ceased moving for a bit...but within another 15 seconds, bam. Michael looked up at me in surprise, revealing to me with his eyes that he understood the peculiarity of what had just happened.

Again, the reality may have been that the baby was trying to tell me he was seriously hungry already - but instead I chose to reflect on his timing. First, he moved around happily and produced light, fluttery kicks after I received communion and he his blessing. Next thing I knew he was kicking - harder than ever before - as we joined Jesus in remembrance of his agony in the garden. Some may call his timing a coincidence, but I'm a firm believer that such things are more accurately categorized as "God-incidences."

We continued singing the hauntingly beautiful words and I continued to reflect on the baby's aggressive kicks - mentally tying it all in with the agony in the garden and our presence before the Blessed Sacrament. Reflecting on all of this was a bit overwhelming so (of course) I had to fight back a few tears.

But it was beautiful.

And I thank God for an evening that finally managed to quench a tiny bit of that thirst...and for the joy I received in experiencing it with Michael and our baby boy.

"The modern mood of mutilating the Gospel, choosing some texts and ignoring others, makes men miss the purpose of the life of Christ. He came on earth not primarily to preach, but to redeem. He came less to live than to die. His mission was not one of mere benevolence, nor to create a revolution in politics or economics, nor to heal, nor to leave a humanitarian ethics -- all these were secondary to the one absorbing purpose of His life, the redemption of man."

-The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

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