by Heath Curtis
Saint Paul says that all of us who are baptized are baptized “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3). Now we live “in Christ” as a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Now Jesus’ story is our story-–as Jesus Himself told us again and again. What happened to Him will happen to us. A servant is not above his Master. If the world hates us, we know that it hated Christ first. He who would be His disciple must take up his cross and follow Him.
This great truth of our life in Christ finds no greater or more beautiful expression as the drama of Lent, Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. The whole liturgical year walks in Christ, but something is different about these days that we set apart as holy each spring. For most of the Church Year, we live in a kind of time-lapse video. In the long season after Pentecost, we walk through all of Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry. This is time-compressed: That’s three years’ worth of teaching, healing and miracles crammed into about six months. The time compression is even more pronounced in Advent-–thousands of years of prophecies about the coming of Christ in four weeks.
But now during Lent we slow down to real time. The time compression goes away. Now we will walk in Christ through the story of Christ day by day, hour by hour. Christ’s story is our story now, so when we tell this story, we don’t just tell it or read from the Scriptures in the few minutes that this would take. We actually slow down and live it in Christ in real time.
Christ fasted for forty days. We fast for forty days. Christ processed into Jerusalem on a Sunday. We celebrate Palm Sunday waving our branches and calling out our Hosannas to Him who has come in the Name of the Lord. Then there’s the quiet intensity of Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday. Can you imagine what was building in the heart and mind of Jesus as He pondered what lay ahead of Him? The services appointed for these days are likewise quiet meditations on the Passion.
And now the Triduum, the Holy Three Days. We gather by night on Thursday to keep the New Passover, to receive the very Lamb of God who now comes to us in His body and blood. On Friday, we gather around the very hours in which Jesus hung upon the cross. Next comes Saturday, the Old Sabbath that Christ has now fulfilled by His great rest in the tomb, and as the sun goes down on that old Sabbath, we gather for the Easter Vigil, the transition from old to new, from Lent to Easter, from death to Life. And then Sunday–the empty tomb, the angels in white, the lilies, the trumpets. He is risen; we shall rise!
The Rev. Heath Curtis is director of LCMS Stewardship and pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Edwardsville, Ill., and Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, Ill.
**This article originally appeared in the March 2013 print The Lutheran Witness.**