Friday, April 10, 2009

The Devil's Temporary Triumph

"The gradual extinction of all light in The Basilica symbolizes the temporary triumph of the Prince of Darkness over the Light of the World."
- Tenebrae worship aid, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

This is the weekend to end all weekends for a Catholic Christian. This is why we
do what we do - for the experience of Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter Sunday. And one of my favorite liturgies during the course of the Triduum is the celebration of Tenebrae, which means "darkness" in Latin. I don't just love Tenebrae because they turn out all the lights at the end and you get the bang on the pews to represent the earthquake after Jesus' death (although that is a highlight). During Tenebrae, we use darkness, Scripture and song to remember the time between Jesus' death and resurrection; we remember the time that Jesus was not in the world.

I'm a fan of reflecting on the circumstances and people surrounding Jesus in the Passion narrative. Tonight, at Tenebrae, I couldn't get my mind off of Satan's "temporary triumph" over God on Good Friday. This is a pretty intriguing idea to me, mostly because of the interplay between power, wisdom and love.

Throughout all of the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church, we have the constant message that everything we do
begins and ends with love. God is Love. We know that God's love offers us many gifts, one of which is wisdom. And any power that we possess as Christians comes first from our love and God's love in us, and second from the wisdom that we're given. Jesus got this progression right. Satan couldn't have gotten it more wrong.

Jesus' great triumph was in putting love before power. Could he have come down from the cross under his own power? Of course - nothing kept him on that cross but love for us. Satan's great folly was in putting power (and everything else) before love.

I wonder sometimes if the devil understood, at least on some level, that the whole crucifixion situation wasn't going to turn out well for him in the end. I wonder if he had some glimpse of Christ's victory over death, but was too greedy to pass up watching the Son of God die. It's like a drug addict on probation knowing the serious consequences he faces if he touches heroin again; and then doing whatever it takes to get the next fix, because he can't see past the immediate obsession.

I love C.S. Lewis for about a million reasons, one of them being the way he goes about this idea in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, after Aslan comes back to life:
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."
What Lewis was wondering was whether the devil had too little wisdom to understand
the end result of the crucifixion (salvation). What I'm wondering if whether the devil had plenty of wisdom, but ignored it for the sake of immediate gratification.

So that brings us to Holy Saturday. Today of all days, let's wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This day of anticipation and near despair while Christ is in the tomb is nothing compared to the joy of Easter!

...and also the joy of eating chocolate again. :)

Peace y'all,

P.S. They dropped rose petals from the ceiling of the Basilica during Tenebrae tonight. A little over the top? For sure. Still pretty cool? Yup.

Now playing: Dispatch - Walk With You
via FoxyTunes

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