On Saturday night, I finally made peace with myself about my hatred of ceremony. No more resisting or dithering about with rationales. I just don’t like it. That is all right. Allowing this without judgment or condemnation let me relax and be awed by the adult Baptisms and first Holy Communions and Confirmations. Just awesome! It takes so much to say, there is something more important than texting, I am going to declare myself for it and conform my life to it.
And what a life has been promised, as in Romans 6: 1-4.
Romans 6: 1 – 4. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized pinto Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
In the midst of all the goings on I realized that Satan just loves that I am confused and angry and hurt about some church issues that have cropped up. Nothing better than to drown out the message of the resurrection with resentment and worry. Glad that I am on to this trick, the plague of thinking seems to have abated.
How good today was, with so many small pleasures, with so much eternal joy.
Did my level best to avoid the crush of big deals on Good Friday, hoping for a peaceable gathering to say the stations of the cross. So many traditions abandoned. A text full of clever ‘relevancies,’ of the sort that drove the pious from the church in tears in the wake of Vatican II. All stayed right where they were in the pews. Would it be too much to ask those gathered to walk the stations as has been the custom for so long? Did not think that I would be one to long for tradition, but I did. Likewise I longed for the kid in the pew ahead of me to stop banging around. My concentration was so broken I felt compelled to mention it. Great offense was taken. How dare I take note of the child’s persistent, insistent rudeness?
So it is not unfair to say that I suffered on Good Friday, in whatever minor ways came my way, including bureaucracy within banking.
But on to the point. The spiritual and the Ignatian traditions invite us to visit the scene of the Crucifixion, to walk the walk, smell the blood, feel the pain, endure the anguish, and, finally, to lose our friend. To be enveloped in darkness and quaking and the rending of the temple veil. Not our time versus old times, but time transcendent, when all things happen, when we are present in our love and loss and complicity and confusion and sorrow.
And what did you do, member of the crowd? Were you there cheering for death? Were you there hoping against hope for deliverance? Did you wish you could stay the proceedings but feared to act? Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
This photograph embodies the darkness with hope still radiant over the hill. The link that follows provides historical information about that treasured hymn.
19th Century African American Spiritual: Were You There?
Imagine if today a friend jumped up in the middle of supper and insisted on washing your feet. You would wish your friend would return to rummaging through the media and texts that have so handily eclipsed table dialogue. You might be, for once, grateful for the distraction that the immediacy of technology demands. And you would likely not want to reciprocate. Perhaps you, too, would turn to the phone, mirroring the isolation of endless parallel play.
The call to extend absolution may be paramount, but if Jesus was correct — as He tended to be — this cannot occur without connection. More than a text or a Tweet may be required. Something to consider while clicking the days away.
The moon on Holy Thursday was, in the recently popular expression, “amazeballs,” and has been captured here by an aspiring professional, with permission.
What shall I relinquish for Lent? What about the unrelenting, incessant, unremitting demand that I do all things well in order to be good. The evil of internalizing the Protestant work ethic. This has been my lifelong counterfeit God, no longer to be worshiped in tabernacles of to-do lists, upon completion of which, a new one arises, and through which each tasks becomes less satisfying than the one before it. Diminishing returns, I have heard it called.
Yesterday two stunning things happened. I watched a film clip of a cousin returning to the place of origin, a place so primitive that it cannot sustain human life. There, pure language has been said to be preserved, and there, inexplicably, the literature of memoir has flourished. Drawn to this place as if in a dream. What is there that must be seen?
Stumbled upon a movie, Wit, which left me sobbing and gasping in the middle of the night, for all the raw beauty (yes, beauty) and passion of the end of our days, for all the realizations, for all the falling away of falsehood. Finally and most importantly, for the pure joy of knowing that for all the soul’s excursions, there is but one point of origin and return, one point that awaits lovingly and patiently for all eternity.
None of the scurrying about of the spirit is worth much, no blue ribbons of redemption to be coveted and claimed. Just being, eternal and unshakable.
Thus far, certainly not the Lenten journey I had anticipated, but an enticing one, nonetheless. I have found myself slavishly working, real compulsive workaholism, punishing myself — perhaps for having things — by working at things I care about not one wit. Self destructive to the max. And so I will pray to be delivered from this, to cease to think that I must be doing, doing, doing to be worthwhile, and to turn my attention to those things I sense are in fact worthwhile, and to make time to become refreshed. And this seems to be the Lenten transfiguration that I did not expect, but that I am graced to receive.
I find the picture below to be quite refreshing. It reminds me of a step-waterfall not far from here that I used to walk by each morning on the way to yoga. An image to keep in mind as I pray.
The distribution of ashes: this day is the only day on which there is a very public declaration of faith, which its invitation to jeers, one of which I received, a crude joke, “just kidding,” along with a browbeating from others in the workplace.
Tried to tune in to the Jesuit’s audio retreat, but found it noxious that the word “mercy” is repeated over and over and over again, to fall in line with Papal decree. In truth, I find that the resurrection of indulgences desecrates reconciliation, for the thinking is that even though one is forgiven, one will be punished nonetheless unless additional, newly announced, rituals are performed. It stinks of “simony says.”
Tried still to get in to the spirit of Lent, all the nonsense notwithstanding. In prayer, wondered whether I really believe I will be healed, and what is it that needs healing? Some needs are beyond words, some needs themselves mask a deeper yearning, a sense of belonging with the Lord. In my mother’s womb you formed me….
The call to meditation asks that we remind ourselves that we are in the presence of God, that God’s magnificence surrounds and pervades all. At almost all times in my life at this point I do not sense this, and indeed I feel I wander among godlessness.
Jesus cures the leper, the untouchable, with touch, and then tells him to be quiet about it, telling only the rabbi, so that he might return to society. What did the leper feel when those who spurned him then welcomed him? How did he reconcile himself to that, when he was the same person, with or without illness?
Good God, Lent again. We just had Advent, of the ill-fated Advent wreath and the dashed hopes that accompanied it, and all of the strife that the end of the year embodied. And now, Lent.
In my innermost self, I desire time alone with the Lord. In fact, all my time should be time with the Lord. As if. (As if that good intention will not evaporate in face of the unrelenting drain of daily demands and the overwhelming toxicity of society.) The unfortunate overlay on wholesome and holy desire, however, is an internalized, childish, yet difficult to deny and dislodge, demand that I become “good.” “Good” according to some Girl Scout definition, always smiling and servile, sacrificing all for some construct of poverty and social justice. I am reminded that, not unlike our beloved Mae West, Jesus announced that, in essence, goodness has nothing to do with it. My guy And today he ripped in to the rules people.
That out of the way, what is it that I seek this Lent? Some openness to the Lord, some availability to all that is offered. And what is offered is all that might be desired. So I will start with that.
The picture inserted here is not terribly pretty, not terribly well shaped. Lacking in color, depth, and definition. Chosen specifically to illustrate the sort of interior brambles, sparked with a little color here and there, not unpleasing in hue, that marks this beginning of the season.