Hear the prophecy of Isaiah:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:10-62:3 NRSV)
When Jesus and his ragtag groupies were making their way around the countryside, preaching, loving, feeding, and healing, it was not considered for one moment the agony that was quickly approaching. Peter had no time to prepare for the arrest of his best friend, which might explain his cowardly response of, "No, I don't know him!" when he was asked about his relationship with Jesus. Mary would have pleaded with her son to stop, to come home, and go back to the family business with Joseph. However, no one knew to expect something like this. Jesus was not supposed to die; that was not in the plans.
Notice the future tense in the passage from Isaiah's prophecy: "I will rejoice, my whole being shall exult, the Lord God will cause." Not yet, but soon. We are more fortunate than the disciples of Jesus. We know the agony that is coming. We know the isolation, the bitter tears, the agony, the pain, and the despair in which we will be immersed in only a few short weeks. And we are luckier still because we can see the hope on the other side of all of the despair. We skipped to the last chapter and read the ending, so we know that no matter what happens in the story, we know the outcome. We will not be surprised.
Lent is soon upon us, and in a little while we ourselves will be immersed in the agony of our Lord. And though we know the agony and the death that are surely coming, we also know how it ends: our Lord rises triumphantly from the very pits of Hell in glory, and we will be redeemed. We know how it ends. I suggest that our forthcoming journey through Lent, through our Lord's Passion, is not to reach the goal at the end of the story- resurrection, but to experience every step in that journey. To know of the "garments of salvation" of which Isaiah spoke, but to think of them in the future tense: the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. Not now, but soon. In all of the loneliness: not now, but soon. In the pain: not now, but soon. When all seems lost, and God has forsaken us: not now, but soon.
May we all embark on this journey through Lent on Wednesday knowing the hope that will surely be ours at the end of the journey: not now, but soon.
Pax et bonum.
(Another liturgy-free post, brought to you by your friends at Anglican Wanderings.)