Die and become -J.W. Goethe

the-penitent-magdalen-vanitas Jusepe de Ribera
The Penitent Magdalen (Vanitas) by Jusepe de Ribera

Matthew 26

Holy Wednesday brings our souls before the threshold.

Until now, the events of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem have had a kind of distance in them; from this distance, work could still be done of cleansing and correcting perceptions and practices.

Now everything changes. Christ enters ever deeper into the experience of being human and allows the mystery of death to draw near. He has been sharing now for awhile with his intimate circle that he will be killed but also that he will also be raised again. It begins to dawn on them. In the gospel reading, we hear of two very different responses to the approach of death.

Death—as we all know deep in our souls—is the utmost transformation. If we do not know or remember what lies on the other side, then we naturally have fear of this total transformation, and full of fear, we resist and even fight against death’s approach. This is the most natural thing in the world.

Judas is plagued with this fear, and it incites him to try to force the situation, to betray his beloved Lord in order to force him to resist death show his divine power, and take up an earthly rule in order to transform the world. Judas is unable to receive Christ’s death, and it leads him to reject the great mystery and all it brings with it.

Mary perceives what is coming, and allows grief to work in her, and what rises up in her soul is the purest of love. Out of this love, she brings the most precious oil to anoint the Lord and help prepare him for what is coming. She says yes to what he has also said yes to, accepts his destiny, and unites herself with him—and opens herself to the mystery of death.

It is our task today to work to understand and stand within this mystery. Death brings us so many gifts. We could not live, if we did not die. Grief is a doorway into receiving death and letting it work upon us. Crossing the threshold, or being present to this threshold in life allows us to receive life in a whole new way.

We seek the threshold everywhere in life. We find it in our struggles in our relationships and in ourselves, in which we somewhat dreamily experience the threshold; and also: here at the altar, where we wakefully seek it out. Each hour we spend at the altar gives us an experience in the midst of life of the threshold of death which is transformation. At this place and in this hour, we practice dying a little bit. We seek to be healed that we may live anew.

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