Holy Week is such a gift because, in a fast paced world, it takes a long, loving gaze upon the story of Jesus of Nazareth’s betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.
For what purpose do we take this yearly spiritual pilgrimage? How can we enter this long, loving look in a way that adds meaning to our lives and does not overwhelm us once again with compassion fatigue at all that goes wrong in our world?
I found an answer in the wisdom of our liturgical calendar. Last week was the feast of the Annunciation. Mary gave her beautiful assent to God’s overshadowing her life and Jesus was conceived. Perhaps we should take a cue from Mary and allow our gaze upon the old story to become an inner gaze of reflection like a pregnant woman whose “eyes” are turned toward herself, paying attention to every shift and change and feeling in her body.
The spiritual life is about honing an inner reflective gaze upon our hearts so that our outer gaze is transformed for love.
One writer said the story of Jesus’ Passion is like “walking through a hall of mirrors.” The story then is a spiritual guide. As such it can lead to new life within. What does it show us?
It shows us all the faces of the false self: the anguish of Judas, indecision of Pilot, cowardice of Peter, self importance of the High Priests, sanctimony of the Pharisees, the mob, the policies and procedures of the Roman empire that all conspire to put Jesus up on the cross.
The hall of mirrors reveals your own acknowledged or unacknowledged shadow self.
Jesus was of course the center of the story. Quietly, in the middle of all the posturing and fleeing, in the midst of fear and hatred Jesus was present. He was not fighting, arguing, or defending himself. Jesus was a harmonizing presence who did not accuse, did not judge, but was simply and strongly present. It seems as if God’s gaze was through him upon the unfolding events, lovingly present as God always is.
Love was poured out on all those people lost to their false selves – not condemning not even actively trying to change the events or the people – but simply, lovingly present.
If we do not slow down, if we are not open and vulnerably present to this old story we cannot learn how God is lovingly present to us. The incredible truth is that God is loving our false shadow selves to death. By his love a new path is opened for us to live healed and saved by God’s merciful present love that will not condemn or change this world through force but only through quiet embracing love. That was how hell was overturned, not by force, but by the power of steady, uncompromising love death is undone.