A few years back I happened to be in downtown Cincinnati for a job interview in the early afternoon on Holy Thursday. At that point in time, God’s plan was not exactly clear to me yet – I had no idea where my life was heading – and so after the interview I decided to go to the chapel in the Cathedral to pray for some guidance in front of the tabernacle.
While there, I picked up a missalette to prepare myself for Mass later that night. Looking over the introduction to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, I read that Lent “ends quietly” on Thursday afternoon as the Triduum begins.
Soon thereafter I watched the Cathedral sacristan walk into the sanctuary, up the altar and toward the tabernacle, where she lifted its purple veil and replaced it with a white one.
Wow, I said to myself, I just saw Lent end quietly.
It’s fitting, I think, that the holy season of Lent – a time of penance, sacrifice and humility – would quietly bow out of the picture in deference to an even holier time. If Lent is a period of quieting down, we get even quieter today, even more contemplative, as we remember Jesus’ last night with His Apostles – just ahead of remembering His death (which was anything but quiet) and later His victory over death.
Of course, the devil has been working overtime during these past 40 days – just as he did with Jesus in the desert. Is anyone else ready to rejoice and celebrate that it’s over? I don’t mean celebrating the Resurrection – that is cause for celebration – I mean celebrating the fact that you’re done with Lent, done with the penance that has vexed you for 40 days. It’s tempting to think,” I made it! I finished the race!”
I don’t know about you, but at the end of Lent I generally find myself relieved and excited that I finally get to treat myself to whatever I gave up. Maybe I’m even a little proud of the fact that I survived the deprivation.
Did Jesus have one of those Rocky moments when Satan finally left Him alone? Did He run up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum, jumping up and down, rejoicing over His great accomplishment? Nope: There was no gloating, no celebrating, no congratulating Himself. He didn’t even treat Himself to a slice of bread.
In fact, in Luke’s account, we’re left with the ominous thought that the devil only left Him for a time: Let that be a lesson to all of us. There is no point in celebrating that Lent is over. The liturgical season may be over, but let’s remember that first, temptation does not end just because Lent ends, and second, we should be rejoicing over the miracle that is Easter, not the “miracle” that we managed to stick to our Lenten sacrifice without cheating.
Tabernacles all over the world will be quietly switching from purple to white today. So as we exit another Lenten season, let’s do it in the same way – with quiet humility, a mere change of colors.
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