Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Sadness and Confusion

12:20 AM. It's Holy Saturday now, and I should be in bed. But my mind is racing.

During the Triduum, I lose track of time. One disaster follows another. They blend together. On Maundy Thursday, our Lord is betrayed, and led away; we strip His altar, and the Rector washes the cold marble surface with vinegar. We leave the chancel in darkness, by the side aisles, without reverencing the cross. We have removed our choir cottas while the altar was stripped; mine trails along, limp and white in my hand. Like Lot's wife, I always turn in my grief and look back. The empty tabernacle yawns open. The darkness of the church is unbroken. The congregation shuffles out quietly in the shadows. No one speaks.

In the garden of repose, it's nearly as dark. Ten candles are alight on the smaller altar where the bread and wine have been placed. Forsythia blooms in vases, and the lilies have opened. On the windowsills, clear votives glimmer. The weather has turned unseasonably cold, and the wind beats against the stained glass. I am chilled to the bone, though I know the baseboard heat is on. It is a supernatural cold. It is the temporary victory of the dark.

In the pew, I look helplessly at Jesus, up there on the altar. I think of Peter, my favorite saint, struggling to stay awake with the Master, but giving in to fatigue, and cold, and grief. Sleep is sometimes the only answer when the heart is heavy. I can hardly imagine the weight of Peter's grief. I can fully imagine the fear that will make him deny Jesus three times within the next hours. Peter has always seemed to me the most human of the disciples.

My vigil time has ended, but my replacement has not come. I will not leave Jesus alone. Finally, my friend appears, to take over the Watch. I go home. I sit and cuddle large dogs. I do not sleep for a long time.

On Friday, I awaken to sun and cold. I go to church before I need to; I want to sit a bit longer with Jesus.

The service is somber. The sermon is ghastly -- a physiological description of the agony Jesus suffered. The evil work of the lead-tipped scourge. Blood loss through the scourging. The onset of shock. The potential dislocation of Jesus's arms as the Romans stretch him out on the cross. The nailing of the hands and feet, and Jesus's struggle for breath. Finally the failure of His heart.

I am nauseated. I guess that was the Rector's goal. We have become insensitive to the details of the crucifixion, or maybe we never learned them to begin with. I will not soon forget them.

Lord, was there another way You could have done this? I wish there had been another way You could have saved me. I wish You had been able to die in Your bed at 103, and still accomplish what You needed to do.

My heart is broken tonight.

1 comment:

Share Cropper said...

And, perhaps Jesus could have died in his bed at 103 if we humans had not been afraid - afraid that we could not live up to his modeling of the Good News, afraid of losing control, afraid of change, afraid of pain - so we inflict our fear and pain on others - and Jesus bore the brunt of it.

As the old preacher kept saying at times during the story of the passion - "Hang on, Sunday's coming!"