Passing the Tree Line
Near the midpoint, or just past it, of the Church’s two more somber seasons, Advent and Lent, the Church gives us two special Sundays when the liturgical color is allowed to be changed. Flowers are once again allowed to decorate the sanctuary, and the first word of the Entrance Antiphon directs us to voice a cry of praise. In Advent this is Gaudete Sunday, in Lent and just this past Sunday, it is Laetare Sunday.
If you have the ability to attend daily Mass, or if you have a Missal and follow along with the proper prayers, you may have noticed that this week we began to hear more about the Feast which is drawing near. In the world of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the U.S., this is a time of preparation in many ways. We are preparing, together with the whole Church, for the most sacred days of the Liturgical Year; the days when we participate in our annual observance of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum. We are also preparing for an annual Holy Cross “feast” which occurs the Saturday after Easter, which has been in recent years the weekend when C.S.C. transitional deacons are ordained to the priesthood.
At the Holy Cross Novitiate, in Cascade, Colorado, there are ample opportunities to practice hiking in the breathtaking beauty of the Front Range of the Rockies. Though I, admittedly, was not as avid in this hobby as many of my classmates or confreres, I do remember an experience that often occurred when scaling any decent-sized peak: passing the tree line. Above a certain altitude, the tall evergreens can no longer grow, which is why most tall mountains are “bald” unless crowned with snow. When you pass the tree line, often the top of the mountain above you becomes much more visible, and you can see your goal much more clearly. You are so close! But then again, there may still be quite a ways to go, and added to that, it’s pretty hard to breathe up there.
If we have passed the “tree line” of Lent with the passing of Laetare Sunday, we should rightly rejoice that we are approaching our goal—the goal of another joyful celebration of Easter. More importantly we should rejoice that we are growing in our relationship with the Lord, on our journey with God, which the circulations of the Liturgical Year help us to appreciate. In the First Letter of St. Peter we read: “Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8-9) In some ways we are so much closer than we were when we first started following the Lord, but don’t be tempted to slacken your pace now. Let the Holy Spirit be your breath as you keep climbing, and keep your eye on the prize there at the summit. Jesus has called you into brotherhood and service with Him.
Collect from Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
We implore your majesty most humbly,
O Lord, that, as the feast of our salvation
draws ever closer, so we may press
forward all the more eagerly towards
the worthy celebration of the Paschal
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