As a mother, I’ve always had an easier time connecting with Advent instead of Lent. I can easily meditate on the weeks leading up to the birth of Our Savior, putting myself alongside Our Blessed Mother as she brought new Life into the world.
The Passion and Death of that same Child, thirty-three years later, though, has always given me some trouble. I’ve been spared witnessing suffering of that nature and cannot fathom the anguish that happened on that Good Friday.
A few months ago, though, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that brings its own amount of suffering and affects many of my day-to-day activities and plans. While I don’t suffer even a tiny percentage of what Our Lord did during His Passion, this diagnosis has brought to the forefront of my mind and heart a greater appreciation of the Holy Passion.
The Stations of the Cross have become a particular solace for me because the nature of my chronic illness lies in the damage and deterioration of my nerves, which shoot off pain and weakness at the most inconvenient times. Our Lord has gifted me with a splinter of His Cross to help me begin to understand what He suffered and to invite me to walk alongside Him during His Passion.
In my selfish moments, when I question, “Why me?” I can redirect my heart to the Agony in the Garden. There, Jesus—also terrified for the future suffering He was to endure—begged, “Let this cup pass from me,” and then gathered the courage to follow those words with these: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
When my leg muscles randomly and unexpectedly give way and I stumble and trip, I’m able to meet our precious Lord on the ground, because He also fell three times.
Perhaps the greatest gift the Stations have given me, though, is through my meditation on Simon of Cyrene, who was ordered to help Jesus bear the Cross. I see my husband daily dying to himself so that he can bravely, joyfully, quietly, and humbly pick up the cross I’ve been given— along with his own—so that he can lessen the weight it has on me. Unlike the Cyrenian, he isn’t forced into helping, but does so willingly and lovingly.
So what does this all have to do with Lent? Our good God often chooses your Lent for you, rather than letting you direct it for yourself. Few of my grand plans for these forty days worked out because it’s difficult to plan from day to day when my flare-ups change with the wind (literally—the barometric changes have been a beast lately!). And also, frankly, because I’m weak; spiritually, I’m in an infancy stage in which I can do few things on my own.
But the fruit of this Lent is that I am in constant awareness of my littleness and on my dependency on the goodness and the grace of God. He chose my Lenten discipline for me. After about a week of failing at my own chosen Lenten discipline, I had the grace to ask God to give me the Lent I needed to find Him and grow in my relationship as a daughter with Him. Boy howdy, did He answer that prayer.
As we enter into Passiontide and Holy Week, I’ve been allowed a glimpse into the life of Jesus that I’ve never had before. Jesus in His agony has become a friend and I no longer avert my eyes from that suffering. I am able to lift my heart to Him, to tiptoe into Gethsamene and kneel alongside Him to ask Him to give me His patience and perseverance when mine fail (because let’s face it, mine will fail). And when He begins His ignominious journey to Calvary, I no longer feel the need to run away from the scene, but instead to run to Him, as Veronica and Our Blessed Mother did.
This past Sunday, we began veiling the statues and crucifixes that grace the surfaces in our home. It’s a visceral reminder of the silence that falls the earth over Holy Week. It’s a visual sermon that reminds us to seek the God of solace, rather than the solace of God.
How can we go about doing so in preparation for Easter?
If there is a Lenten discipline that has fallen by the wayside, pick it back up now. It was sweet St. Therese who said, “Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” Let us hold that close to our hearts as we finish out these last few days of Lent!
Offer up every action as a sacrifice and a prayer. “Everything, even sweeping, scraping vegetables, weeding a garden, and waiting on the sick could be a prayer if it were offered to God,” so St. Martin de Porres reminds us. Let us love our families and neighbors with an intentionality in our daily duties!
Take the opportunity to quiet and slow our lives over this next week, particularly over Triduum. I think that cutting out any unnecessary activities, shopping, radio, and social media makes for a much more peaceful Holy Week, at least in our home!
Confession, confession, confession. Find Him in confession! My spiritual director has a phrase that we often repeat in our home, “Go to confession, before you have to go to confession, so you don’t have to go to confession.” Live by that rule, my friends! He’s waiting for you there!
What are some ways that you and your family keep Holy Week? What ways does Our Lord invite you to meet Him on Calvary during this holiest of weeks?
Written by Melanie Behnke, Mother, Wife and Writer