holy, holy week
in our house, it is the gospel according to matthew, and the seder infused by elie. and this, by the blessing of the calendar, is one of those wham-bam weeks.
we’ve got it all, and weave and flow from exodus to last supper, from parting of red sea to rending of blackened sunless sky. we dash the house of bread, but then bring on the easter baskets.
long long ago, we set our own pesach dispensation for easter sunday. even when it’s in the midst of the eight days of no leavened grains, we part the matzo for a sprinkling of chocolate, for jelly beans, in the easter basket.
i was musing that wednesday is the only day of this whole week not rich in something jewish or catholic, and thus i would need to consult the koran to divine my depth for the day.
it is, very much, a fact that the interlacing of the passion of jesus, a passion set in history at the cusp of passover, and the jewish remembrance of the exile from egypt, is, for me, a rich one.
after 25 years of living them on top of and through each other, i have come to see shadows, understand subtleties that would have escaped me were it not for my being drawn, in love and faith, to a man who is, himself, a son of the tribe of israel.
and so it was that we all, the four of us, two jews, one catholic and one just learning both, walked into a church courtyard yesterday where palms were swaying in the air, the priest’s red robe was billowing–nay, blowing–up and nearly over his head from behind, the winds were whipping so unrelentingly, a red bird’s plumage in flight. the red cloth punctuating the otherwise gray day.
the priest, one i’d known long ago, one who’d grown older and even wiser, and though he’d grown bent, never bent from his focus on that core of what i call dorothy day catholicism that sees peace and justice as the central burning flame of a religion he won’t let go down in flames.
he was in the midst of reading the passion of jesus when he looked up, looked out at the sea of waving palms, and implored the multi-colored crowd: “consider and tend the wounds of the world as if they were your own—-for they are.”
that then, i gulped, is the mission of this week.
i came home, sat down to consider elie wiesel, the nobel-prize winning poet and seer who survived the holocaust and will not, bless him, let us forget.
“i love passover,” he wrote, “because for me it is a cry against indifference, a cry for compassion.”
wiesel wrote those words in perhaps the only autographed book (certainly the only autograph that fills me with awe) on my shelves, “a passover haggadah,” (simon & schuster) his 1993 commentary and guide through the seder, or meal of remembrance, the retelling of the exodus story, that is the centerpiece of passover.
“sometimes the sheer speed of events makes us reel,” wiesel also wrote in the haggadah. “history advances at a dizzying pace. man has conquered space, but not his own heart. have we learned nothing? it seems so. witness the wars that rage all over the globe, the acts of terror that strike down the innocent, the children who are dying of hunger and disease in africa and asia every day. why is there so much hatred in the world? why is there so much indifference to hatred, to suffering, to the anguish of others?”
wiesel asks. the old priest implores.
because i am catholic, because i spent many years on my knees studying the 10-foot-high crucifix that hung before me in the church where i grew up, i don’t even have to close my eyes to see the wounds that i’ve been asked to dab with cool and healing waters.
and so i walk, i stumble, through this most holy week.
what questions do you carry into this blessed string of holy days? what thoughts do you put to those questions? those callings?
p.s. some really fine thoughts–really fine–have been tacked onto meanders in recent days, thanks to the brilliant souls who keep pulling up chairs. bless them! don’t forget to take a look back and keep the conversation flowing. just because we move on to a new meander does not ever mean the case is closed on a meander past. in fact, we might have drummed up a real-live beekeeper to tell us a thing or three about the heartbreak in the hives….
p.s.s. welcome back from break, all of you who flew away…we held down the fort just fine….
I have no question or thoughts, but a feeling — I am always crushingly humbled & I believe appropriately saddened by the Holy week that is before us. I knew exactly what you were speaking of when you said you ‘stumble through this week’. I hope many engage in the the metamorphosis that is before us this reflective time of year. Thank you for another beautiful entry.
This weekend Barbara and I were emailing back and forth. While we were emailing one another, I was listening to the cooking show on Minnesota Public Radio, “The Splendid Table.” This made me think about the literal and figurative meaning of the table for Christians, Jews and all of those who “pull up a chair” at the daily meanderings. I love that in these high holy days for Jews and Christians, that we are invited to the table, to feast amidst grief, questions and doubt and then into abundant life. As an anthropology major in undergrad, I was fascinated by rituals in different cultures. Now as a pastor, the metaphor and meaning of the sacred meal of communion is one that informs my politics, the bonds of some of my closest relationships with people and the earth. It is remarkable to me that one of the highest rituals in both of these traditions involves sitting down and breaking bread together. When one sits down to break bread, there can be intimacy, a place to be vulnerable, a place to know that we are not alone.Beyond the bread, I realize that these holy days also focus on suffering. As much as I see suffering in the world today, it is sometimes hard for me to know how to enter into the Christian Holy week. I think a question I will be asking myself in the next few days, is where is my vantage point this Easter. At what part of the story do I enter in this year and find respite. What parts of the story of Holy Week do I resist and why is that so.Sometimes I feel that I jump to the signs of new life that come with Easter. I wonder how I will sit with the reality of suffering in this year’s Holy week.
slj, the Orthodox begin their Holy Week observance–well, they begin it on Clean Monday, way back weeks ago–but I mean, things really get cranking on Palm Sunday, with services beginning that night, each night at 7 p.m., then starting on Thursday there will be two services, then three on Friday, one on Saturday morning and a rea-ea-ealllly long on e Staurday night. We will break the fast together afterwards–2 a.m.? 3 a.m.?–in a boisterous, joy-filled, exhausted, raucous feast. But to the point. Last night, at Matins for Holy Monday, the priest spoke of watchfulness. We must be watchful throughout this week. Critical minds awhir. Waiting. Waiting for the bridegroom with our oil jars full and extra oil to boot. Watchfulness, not drowsiness, not sleepwalking. (I wasn’t so happy to hear my priest forcefully intone, while my chronically bad-at-bedtime son was sitting at my side, Now is not the time for sleep! Stay awake! Keep watch! We had a good laugh over that afterwards. Mom, he said, mom, I have to listen to my priest!) Anyway. SOmetimes it’s hard to know how to enter into the rituals of the week, the markings, the emotion. But I do know that I can keep watch. I can stay wakeful. I can anticipate something great that God will do in God’s time.Blessed week to everone.