The Paschal Mystery
Burning but not consumed! This was the strange sight that Moses beheld in the desert – a bush on fire yet contained. Such a strange phenomenon! Moses moved closer to examine the mystery before him. “No, Moses, stop where you are and remove your sandals for this is holy ground!” This was no natural mystery as Moses would now realize, but one whose depths he would not be able to grasp. But it was precisely here that Moses was sent to lead the Israelites out of slavery into freedom – a saving act – a foreshadowing of Jesus, for Moses also said that God would raise up “a prophet like me” (Deuteronomy 18:15).
The “I am” that spoke to Moses came among us in the person of Jesus who said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am” (John 8:28). He uses this expression 45 times in John’s Gospel. Jesus lived our life on a day-to-day basis. But when His hour had come to culminate His saving act – to lead us out of the slavery of sin into the freedom of the children of God, He paid our penalty through His Passion and death and gave us new life through His Resurrection. The sacrifice of the Lamb – this is the Paschal Mystery!
While Moses was performing his daily duty of tending the flocks of his father-in-law God drew him to Himself by captivating his attention in order to prepare him for a new mission.
The Father also drew Jesus to Himself while He was being baptized to validate His mission through a voice which resounded over the waters, “This is My beloved Son”!
God likewise draws our attention to Himself through mysteries, natural or supernatural, that appear on the horizons of our lives. Are any of these moments still with us as mysteries that we continue to ponder?
Growing up, my house, one of only three on our street, was set against the edge of the woods. One morning after a very cold wintry night, I went outside to a fresh-fallen snow and proceeded to enter the path leading into the woods. As I stood at the entrance of the path I was transfixed by the beauty before me – snow and ice hanging from every tree branch. How long I stood there, despite the freezing temperatures, I do not know. Beauty had captivated my soul ! God knows how to grab our attention whether it be through beauty, through truth or through goodness. He places a mystery before us and allows us to plumb its depths. Like Moses we stand on holy ground.
We are reminded in CCC #571 that there is a central mystery in our lives, the Paschal Mystery – Christ’s cross and Resurrection – which stands at the center of the Good News. It is this that drove the Apostles and those who followed them to proclaim it to the world. To do this the Apostles, not only had to come to terms with the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, but to ponder the events that they had witnessed. They had to be inserted into the depths of this astounding Mystery. This Mystery became the very epicenter of their lives shattering all their previous plans, attitudes and expectations.
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap. reminds us that when we celebrate the Triduum and Easter we are not simply commemorating a past event, “but a mystery”. We pass from “spectators to actors. It is up to us therefore to choose what part we want to play in the drama…no one can remain neutral; not take a position means to take a very precise one.”
The Son of God left His heavenly home to come among us, to become one of us and to sacrifice His life, as a free offering to the Father, in a brutal manner, to save us and to restore us to His Father.
As we stand on holy ground and look deeply into the Mystery, where do we see ourselves within it? How do we experience its presence on a daily basis? What is Christ asking of us? Jesus died that we might have life. And what of us?