The tabernacle is open. The sanctuary candle is extinguished. Christ is absent.
I am struck to my core by the empty space. How must the Israelites have felt to watch God recede from the Holy of Holies? Suddenly, the temple is empty. After years of seeing the cloud rest over the dwelling, they, too, must have felt the vast emptiness, the loneliness, the abyss left behind by His departure.
My gut reaction is to hurry toward Easter Sunday, locking the initial despair securely behind a mental steel door. I know, however, this is not what I am called to do during this holiest of seasons. Rather, I take a deep breath and sit with the vast solitude.
As I contemplate Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, I sit with his humanity and wrestle with the knowledge of how the next day will unfold. My flesh is weak, too, but I feel Christ's peace as he says, "not my will, but Yours be done."
My thoughts turn to earlier in the evening, as Christ instituted the Eucharist for the infant church. How His heart must have broken as we watched Judas leave. It didn't break for Himself, but for Judas as he turned from the light and embraced darkness forever. It broke for Judas because He knew He would never get to forgive Judas, dispensing the unlimited mercy of the Father upon him. His heart broke for Judas who would miss out on the kingdom of heaven. His heart broke because, after all the time He'd spent with Judas, offering grace and love, Judas would be the one lamb he would not go after as He submitted to the Father's perfect will.
Tonight is a night of transition. In our hearts, we must prepare ourselves to move from a happy image of Christ toward becoming a participant in the torture and death of God. It is an uncomfortable spiritual moment where we have to learn to own our participation in the events of Holy Week.