Holy Week is so action-packed that it can almost feel overwhelming. On Sunday, we had our first memorial of the Passion. Yesterday, we anointed the feet of the Suffering Servant. Tomorrow we’ll lean into the grittiness of Spy Wednesday and on Thursday, step into the Triduum.
But nothing really happens on Tuesday.
Our Gospel is taken from the Last Supper, which won’t be celebrated for another couple of days. It’s almost as if the Church is offering us “a deep breath before the plunge,” as Gandalf would say, allowing the goodness of ordinary life to seep back into our hearts after a liturgical season that has been anything but ordinary. The word, “extraordinary,” pales as a description for these next days in Jesus’ life. He knows that He will surrender Himself to the Father with extraordinary trust and offer Himself to us with extraordinary love. These acts usher in an extraordinary beauty that creates the world anew. But Jesus also knows that these upcoming days will be ones of extraordinary pain. He knows that His days are numbered.
Which leads me to the question: What did the Son of God do on His last ordinary day?
In His perfect humanity, Christ saw the created world with an eye so unclouded that He marveled at every grain of sand for the intricate masterpiece that it is. I wonder if He walked alone through Jerusalem early that morning, taking in every palm branch and praising His Father for every breath of oxygen caught and embraced by His sacred lungs. Oh, to be a molecule swept up by the Creator to sustain His created body!
But maybe He wasn’t alone. Maybe He walked with Peter, James, and John, telling them funny stories to lighten their guarded moods, or discussing the trivial, yet precious things that are only understood by close friends. Maybe they went to the market to buy Jesus’ favorite food. During that transaction, He would have looked at the merchant with unmistakable love and sorrow as He pondered the far greater price that would be paid for this soul so soon.
All of this is pure conjecture of course. It’s equally plausible that Jesus withdrew that entire day to be alone with His Father. But something that I think is far less hypothetical is that the Lord would have sought out time with His Mother.
Mary is not written of profusely in the Passion narrative, quiet handmaid that she is. But her agony was unspeakable that week. Mary was no fool like the apostles frequently were. She knew that her Son was the suffering servant from the book of Isaiah1. She had heard from His own lips that He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified. Mary had to stand there in the crowd on Palm Sunday, watching her Son march to His death. Even though He was surrounded by shouts of jubilee, she knew that those shouts would turn to jeers and those palms to clubs. As He entered the city gates, Jesus was entering the jaws of death. And there was nothing she could do about it.
None of this was without her permission of course. It was Mary’s “Fiat” that unleashed the light of the Holy Spirit to conceive the Word. At Cana, Jesus would not begin His public ministry, thus beginning the end of His life, without first receiving her approval. “My hour has not yet come,” He told her then. This week, Mary witnesses the climax of that hour. This week is the culmination of her surrender at the Annunciation as she must say, “Yes,” once more, not to life, but to death. The fruit once only known in the recesses of her very body and soul will be stripped naked and torn to shreds for the world to see. But it is in that unveiling that Her Son will draw the world to Himself.
Once more, the new Eve invites the new Adam, not to disobedience and mistrust, but to perfect obedience and surrender. Tonight, Mother and Son meet in private for the last time. The depth of every encounter between these immaculate souls is one we can only hope to witness in heaven. But it’s beautiful to imagine what this last night is like. Jesus holds her in his sinewy carpenter arms as she sings the lullabies she sang to Him in Egypt. They laugh at old stories and memories from Nazareth. He tells her more about the Father and she weeps with love and joy.
That weeping is one of sorrow too as Jesus confides in her that Judas is the one who will betray Him. He tells her that His heart is already racked with grief at the sins of mankind and with fear at the task to be accomplished. But He also tells her about the glory of Sunday. He promises to appear to her, urges her to be prepared and wait for Him. To which He adds, “As I know you will be.”
He declares to her the words of Isaiah2, “Do not fear…When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned….For I, the Lord, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.”
Tears fill His eyes as He kisses her cheek and murmurs, “Because you are precious in my eyes and honored.”
Her voice joins with His to finish the verse, “And I love you.”
Together, they walk outside beneath the moon so near its phase for Passover. The luminous moon that reflects the sun’s glory shines on the last moments of Jesus’ last ordinary day. And as Jesus walks back to His apostles and Mary watches until He has faded into the black night, we are urged to remember that the beauty of daily life is absolutely part of the beauty that saves the world.
1- Isaiah 53
2- Isaiah 43