Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Empty Tabernacle

"They've closed the chapel at Brideshead, Bridey and the Bishop. Mummy's requiem was the last Mass said there. 

After she was buried the priest came in ... and took out the altar stone and put it in his bag

 ... and blew out the lamp in the sanctuary, 

and left the tabernacle open and empty,

as if from now on it was always to be Good Friday." - Brideshead Revisted

Seeing the empty tabernacle and stripped altar is my favorite part of Good Friday. Like the sede vacante period, this emptiness only happens once in a while, and so is a powerful reminder of why we love the persons who normally fill that space. The dramatic, sparse mourning of the Triduum sanctifies the sorrow and loneliness that all humans experience. 

Like last year when I was newly engaged, this Lent has been full of exciting new plans that have kept me from feeling somber. But honestly, the past two years have been like one long Lent of underemployment, debt, and uncertainty. The Betrothed and I spent lonely Easters last year on different continents. We had a grainy Skype conversation and vowed "Next year, in Jerusalem!" 

On Christmas Eve, God finally answered our prayers with a job offer for me in New York. I've relocated for love, and finally live in the same state as my future husband. So now Lent is over and we are in Holy Saturday until June 15, waiting, praying, and keeping watch over empty space. I live alone in the apartment that will soon be our home. Different schedules and locations mean we often sit solo in church pews. Every weekend is a puzzle of who will drive where. It's hard for our lives to be so divided. 

The ache and emptiness that hit me when we started long-distance dating is still present. I long for unity with the man I love, and finally to share a home with him and God. I'm not a model Catholic woman, patiently suffering. Too often, I have given in to self-pity and despair. I worry that I have wasted this cross or have failed at being a witness of Christian joy. Sure, secular world, don't shack up with your beloved. Instead, be as miserable as I am! 

Fellow engaged woman Elizabeth recently pointed out that feeling a longing for marriage during the Triduum is actually quite appropriate.  Christ's Passion and Resurrection were His greatest expression of love for His bride, the Church. Why shouldn't we want the same spousal self-giving and unity? So this weekend, when I wish for the millionth time that we were married already, I'll try to unite that wishing to Christ's great desire and love for the Church. I'll think of the great mystery that The Betrothed and I will soon become united to, and its promise that God's people will not face emptiness forever. 

1. Good Friday 2013 at Holy Innocents, Manhattan. 
2, 3, 5. Good Friday 2008 at College of William and Mary Catholic Campus Ministry Chapel, Williamsburg, VA
4. Good Friday 2013 at St. Francis Church St. Anthony Chapel, Manhattan

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! I, too, feel that emptiness. And especially felt that emptiness this last Lent we have apart. The other reason I felt so empty this Lent was because I knew it would be another Easter Vigil come and gone where I wouldn't be Catholic. It's extremely frustrating to me but at the same time I know this waiting is coming to an end. We're so close!