Archbishop’s column: Easter 2010 – beauty and truth

The liturgy enables us to contemplate the mystery of God ‘ the mystery of a God crucified, of a love that is more powerful than the forces of sin and evil in the world, of a risen life that we are called to share, day by day, day after day.

‘A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery or the search for truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal for human life’ (Lewis Mumford).
Nobody wants a poverty-stricken day, nobody wants a succession of such days; they would be fatal for our spirit; there would be nothing life-giving.
When I read this quote from the historian and philosopher, Lewis Mumford, I thought about how those words apply to the liturgy, in particular that for Holy Week and Easter which we are celebrating.
The liturgy is intended to have sights and sounds of beauty – magnificent music, beautiful buildings, sometimes beautiful flowers, chalices, vestments, the sights and sounds of the gathered assembly, the stammering response of a child – symbols and glimpses of beauty that lift our minds and hearts to God.
Archbishop's column: Easter 2010 - beauty and truth Archdiocese of Wellington
The liturgy helps us in our search for a truth and perfection that will always be greater than we can imagine or hope for, but it is the search that counts.
The gospel for the second Sunday in Lent each year recalls the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. For the disciples who went with him to pray, it was a kind of a liturgy. They certainly saw the sights and sounds of beauty as they looked on his transformed face and clothing.
They contemplated mystery: Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus. What was this all about? They heard the message of truth:
‘This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to him.’
It was so good they wanted to stay there.
This has been the Lenten journey we have been on these past six weeks: ‘a joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed …’ (Lenten preface).
This Lent we have learned to live with the mystery, to open ourselves to experience the sights and sounds of beauty, to search for God’s truth so that our minds and hearts are renewed and we are ready for Easter.
Our Lenten prayer, personal and communal, has changed us because we have experienced the beauty, the mystery, the truth and the perfection of God.
Lenten prayer called us to wait, to watch, to listen and to let the mystery transform us. We might want to stay on the mountain, but we know we have to leave our work of prayer for the work of charity in our homes and families, our schools and workplaces, in the world around us. This is Lent, too.
Over these past few days, we have engaged in the mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus and in our lives. We have seen Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, we have walked with him or, perhaps terrified, run away to the garden of Gethsemane, followed him on the way of the cross, even through the streets of Wellington or Palmerston North. Good Friday leaves us feeling numb.
Holy Saturday is unique in the church’s liturgical year: Jesus has died. Hopes are shattered. There is emptiness and disorientation. What next? Yet we know that the end of the Lenten journey that leads to the tomb is really a new beginning, away from the tomb. After a long night, the first day of a new week dawns.
What a surprise this ‘first day of the week’ is. The ‘first day’ that recalls the first day of creation. That ‘first day’ we experience, too, after a Lent of being alert to the sights and sounds of beauty or the gift of new insight after a struggle to deepen my truth, or the awe of silence in the face of mystery. 
Lewis Mumford notes that a succession of days without the touch of beauty, mystery, truth and perfection ‘is fatal for human life’.
In his resurrection, Jesus ‘the way, the truth and the life’ has shown us where true life lies, has won for us this ‘life to the full’ and invites us to come down from the mountains of Tabor and Calvary to share that life with others on the road.