Thursday, 27 March 2008

NOLI ME TANGERE

Everyday this week, from last Sunday to this coming Sunday, the masses we celebrate take on an ambience more festive than any other week of the year. We celebrate the Easter Octave, a whole week when at mass we sing the Gloria, reminding us that each day takes the rank of a feast. We likewise append alleluias to the dismissal and its response: “Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, alleluia. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Despite the stress-filled yearend decisions, information and activities, the celebration of Easter this year remains pleasantly memorable to me. I hold it as a beautiful privilege to hold aloft the Paschal Candle in the night of the vigil and sing “Christ our Light!” and also to sing the Easter Proclamation, the Exsultet. I have done it before—in Tuloy sa Don Bosco (2000), St. John Bosco Parish in Tondo (2001), Don Bosco Batulao (2005) and Don Bosco Canlubang (last year)—but I was still trembling this time.

Easter Sunday came and the beautiful feeling of new life continues these days. One memorable gospel passage this week was the one read on Tuesday (Jn 20:11-18). It is one of the famous resurrection scenes, that of the encounter between Mary Magdalene and our Resurrected Lord. One famous phrase that is often quoted from this passage (that even Rizal used as the title of his novel) is the Latin expression “Noli me tangere” (the original of which, of course, is in koine Greek) which we readily translate to “Touch me not.” However, that translation is misleading, for it seems to be a command that is forbidding.

Other translations yield the beauty of the situation that was there in the encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, as in the following: “Stop holding on to me” or “Stop clinging to me…” It tells us of Mary’s joy in seeing the Lord. So excited was she that she couldn’t help but hold onto Jesus.

It is this same kind of joy that we feel when we encounter Jesus after realizing the love he has for us, after a long time of suffering, or after a long dry spell of being away from him on account of our sinfulness. We cling to him and gently and smilingly would tell us, “Noli me tangere.” For how we see and touch him today is not the end, but merely a foretaste of what is to come, when we, like him, would ascend to the Father. May this season be full of God’s experience for all of us.

Happy Easter, alleluia!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Watch and Pray

The Thursday of all Thursdays has once again come with the beginning of this year’s Paschal Triduum. These following days are the most solemn time of the Liturgical Year with the celebration of the Easter Vigil as the summit of the calendar of the Church.

As a child I have always looked forward to this time of the year, not with joyful anticipation as I do at Christmas time, but with solemn excitement over the novelties of practices: the penitents (salibatbat in our Kapampangan language)—men flagellating themselves, or carrying their crosses, or crawling on the dirt; the pasyon, the Seven Last Words at the Cathedral, the tanggal followed by the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and Veneration of the Cross and the procession of the Santo Entierro around the town.

When I entered the minor seminary of Don Bosco Juniorate, I had a closer look into the liturgy as we took some time learning the songs and practicing the services for the Triduum. When I was in third year high school I was chosen as one of the apostles whose feet were washed in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. After the Mass we took turns to spend at least an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, in commemoration of Jesus’ words “Stay awake, watch, pray.” (cf. Mt 26:41)

This is something that I have seriously taken every year during the Paschal Triduum. The liturgical celebration is so rich and through all of these God speaks to us over and over again, reminding us of the words spoken by his Son at the Last Supper: “No greater love one has than to lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13)

Our dialogue with God continues. In the solemnity of these days, do not forget: watch and pray.

THE Thursday

This is the day of La lumière, the name of my site. The weekly newsletter of the department I am handling comes out every Thursday. As this is the most important Thursday of the year, it is worthwhile to look at the reason behind the special character of this day of the week.

Every Thursday, in praying the rosary, we meditate upon the mysteries of light, and thus, the name La lumière. These mysteries culminate in the institution of the Eucharist by our Lord: Holy Thursday. This Lord’s Supper the institution of which we celebrate today, begins the Easter Triduum which leads to our celebration of Easter, the commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection. Thursday thus becomes the light that leads us into the threshold of the summit of our Christian life: celebrating Life—Jesus rising again to life.

Let the ponderings that we make these days of the Triduum and throughout the Easter Season make us even more thankful of the gift of Thursday: the gift of Christ’s love and service, the gift of his presence—so vivid in the Last Supper!

A blessed Paschal Triduum to each one of you!