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tragically beautiful

April 2, 2010

The procession at the end of Holy Thursday Mass had concluded.  The Eucharist was reposed in the Tabernacle on the side altar, as the beautifully profound words of Tantum Ergo gently drifted over the congregation.  The hymn ended but the seven priests who had presided at Mass remained kneeling in silent adoration.  They rose a few minutes later, and the somber tradition of stripping of the altar began.

Soon nothing was left.  The altar stood empty, void of all its adornments, as a representation of Christ stripped of His garments.  My heart was grieved by the desolate sight, yet the significance of the ceremony did not escape me.  I was moved to tears by a deeper understanding of the truth it portrayed: Christ, in his compassion and humility, allowed himself to be exposed and vulnerable.  “Tragically beautiful” was Rosario’s description of the stark altar.

It was a glorious liturgy and I left with my heart and mind silenced in awe of the great mysteries and the tragic beauty I had witnessed.

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