As we draw near the end of Lent, we pause to reflect on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary: the Crucifixion.
Growing up in a very Catholic family, in a very Catholic neighborhood in Chicago, and attending a Catholic school ensured that I was in church every Friday afternoon of Lent for the Stations of the Cross and on Good Friday for services that included the reading of Jesus’ Passion. Among the many things that I recall from those experiences is the fact that I did not understand much of what I heard other than the fact that Jesus was being led to his crucifixion. I certainly did not understand what an “ignominious gibbet” was (a phrase from a traditional Way of the Cross booklet we used in our parish, referring to the Cross).
One aspect of the Passion story that I did not understand, but that is now one of my favorite lines, is the reference to the “curtain of the temple” being torn in two from top to bottom at the moment Jesus died (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). I remember thinking that the Gospel authors were perhaps being a little over-the-top as they described Jesus’ Death and added some “special effects” to increase the drama. It was never explained to me back then that the curtain or veil in the Temple separated the people from the Holy of Holies (God’s earthly dwelling place) and that Jesus’ Death eliminated that separation. God chose the experience of death as the ultimate way of showing solidarity with his children: through the Death of Jesus, God fulfilled his promise to draw near to his people.
Celtic spirituality refers to “thin places“—those locations or experiences where it seems as though the veil or separation between heaven and earth is especially thin. Death is the ultimate “thin space,” because our mortality brings us face-to-face with God. Jesus’ Crucifixion is where we—like the centurion at the foot of the Cross in Mark’s Gospel—recognize that God is truly among us. And St. Paul reminds us that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of Christ.
The curtain is torn in two from top to bottom—and it is the most glorious tear that any fabric has ever known!
This Easter, may all of us experience the nearness of God through his Son, Jesus Christ, who died and is Risen!
Deepen your understanding of the Rosary by reading The Rosary: A Path into Prayer by Elizabeth M. Kelly and The Complete Rosary: A Guide to Praying the Mysteries by William G. Storey.