April 12, 2009

The Paschal Quiet

Easter Sunday afternoon, one of those moments as a parish priest when there is a sudden shift from activity and sound to quiet and stillness. From the Vigil last night and through the four Masses today, I've greeted hundreds of people, sang many hymns, preached twice, sprinkled two congregations, and done seven incensations of altars and Gospels, not to mention offering the Sacrifice three times.

And after all of this intensely social and sometimes feverish activity, these last few hours of the Paschal Triduum* arrive with complete quiet and solitude. Masses are done and the people have gone. It doesn't even seem like there is anyone in the friary; the brothers are perhaps asleep or have gone to visit someone.

I can see how some priests get trapped in loneliness. The ministry is very social; you make both friends and enemies in abundance, and attract flatterers and disciples. But at the ends of the day you are alone. So if you start to identify yourself with the support you receive from the people you serve, you put yourself in a dangerous place. You will be lonely when there is no one around to fulfill your need to be helpful, your need to be needed. As one of my friends in the Order described this caricature of ministry, "There I was, hard at work, doing for God what he couldn't do for himself."

But loneliness is a temptation, a running away from the invitation of solitude. The longer I go in my Christian journey--and here I am in the last hours of my seventeenth Paschal Triduum--I realize more and more that part of the charism of celibacy is an invitation to a certain kind of prayer that is jealous, exclusive, and very secret.

Amen. Surrexit Christus Vere. Alleluia.

*Sometimes people forget that the Triduum doesn't end with the Easter Vigil but extends through Vespers of Sunday. As far as divine revelation is concerned, a day goes from sundown to sundown; i.e., "Evening came and morning followed, the nth day." So the 'three days' of the Paschal Triduum commence with the Mass of the Lord's Supper, which replaces Vespers on Holy Thursday Evening, and close with Vespers on Sunday.


Jeanne said...

Beautiful post - thank you as always for the insights into your calling.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks, Jeanne, for your encouragement. Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

This is my first visit to your blog,Father. Thank you for this post. My confessor has been trying to help me understand some of these points that apply to celibate laypersons and the dangers of overusing media even doing good with it, and not actually praying enough. Reading your post, it clicked for me and I understand better what he was saying to me.
Happy Easter, God bless you. Heaven heard your Exultet :)

4narnia said...

thanks for such a beautiful sharing, Fr. C! i hope you had a peaceful and blessed Easter Sunday after all of the activity of Holy week. you're right about how people can become trapped in lonliness if we identify ourselves with the support we receive from others. the single life can be similar to what you describe-at the end of the day, after working or being active in parish ministry, you're home alone in the quiet and solitude. it's important to be supportive of one another, but we all need to know how to be still and quiet in the presence of our Lord-it's in the quiet and solitude (which i always treasure) that we will grow closer to God and find real peace. i'm not sure if this comes from somewhere in Sacred Scripture or not, but i've often heard it said of God that He asks us to "be still and know that He is God." PEACE! ~tara t~

Brother Charles said...

Tara and Immaculatae, thank you for the example of your devotion!