silence on a day that darkens
today is the day it gets dark. it does, i swear it does. it almost always does. i watched, when i was little, for the darkness to roll in.
God was broken, broken-hearted, on Good Friday. and i, grade-school believer with all my heart, i kept an eye, all afternoon, on the sky. sometimes i’d take to a rock. a thinking rock. i’d sit and watch the sky. i would know, come three o’clock, when the story says that Jesus closed his eyes, sighed his final sigh, and we all drop to our knees, that black clouds would roll in, eclipse the light.
early on, i told my jewish not-yet husband that story. i’ve told my children. i will watch the sky today.
and while i watch, i will be silent. three hours, noon to three. the hours that, by his hands and feet, Jesus hung on that heavy wooden cross. it is, my mother taught me, the least that we can do.
last night i went to church. my very favorite day of the whole church year is holy thursday. the last supper. the washing of the feet. for two hours, the stream of people, humbled, on their knees, feet naked, washed. i was washed, and i washed. a beautiful mother from kenya, her baby on her hip, washed me. i held her baby on my lap so she could wash, yes, between my toes. i washed her toes too.
it is not hard, when you see an old priest walking barefoot, ferrying pitchers and basins of water and clean white towels, to the blind, the wheelchair-bound, the teenage boy with down’s syndrome, the black, the brown, the pink, to picture Jesus doing the same.
while all the washing was going on, while the long lines of people filled with prayer, stood waiting, waiting to be seated in the chair, to lift their naked feet above the bowl, to have the stream of water poured, then lathered, then poured again, then dried and blessed–no half-baked, symbolic washing here, this was real and hygienic as well as full of spirit–while all the washers waited, i thought about the sins of this sorry world.
there is much to be silent for this good, dark, friday. as i sat ticking through a litany of sins, once again, i found myself informed and borrowing from jewish prayer, from yom kippur, the day of atonement, the holiest of holy days when you’re a jew. and if you listen, if you pray along, it is a deeply holy day even if you’re not.
i find myself, every year, filled with awe at the breath-taking jewish admission of the brokenness of the human condition. they do not tick through mamby-pamby sins. no. they get astonishingly real, and very close to the bone, to home. where my mother, again, always taught me charity begins. i think forgiveness might do well to start there, too.
so, in the spirit of atoning on this day in which it feels so right to be considering our sins, especially the sins of the homefront, that place we spend so much time considering here, i borrow from that same frank baring of the soul, i tap into the confessional vein i have found, and been held by, in the jewish prayers of the mahzor, the prayer book for the days of awe.
on this most christian day of awe, i beat fist to breast, i wrap myself in cloak of silence. i look deep within.
there is much, yes, to be silent for…
the sin of being afraid to speak up–even when it is among neighbors, and you hear or see exclusion.
the sin of shouting, singeing tender hearts of children.
the sin of not opening the door–or closing it in too much of a hurry.
the sin of breaking down the beauty of this world, and not repairing that that you’ve left broken behind you.
the sin of not noticing the hurt right in front of your face.
the sin of asking too much of your children.
the sin of wanting too much.
the sin of believing but not taking action.
the sin of standing back, watching injustice eclipse the truth, and doing not enough.
the sin of saying you’re too busy, but you’re not.
the sin of holding back, not fulfilling all that you can be, for being afraid to manifest the seed of genius that, surely, has long been buried deep inside you.
the sin of leaving someone else to reach out a hand to lift up the poor, clothe the naked, give the extra toys in the basement corner to children without any.
the sin of going along with the crowd.
the sin of thinking you needn’t be the one to feed the forgotten on your block.
the sin of going to sleep another night taking for granted there will be a tomorrow morning.
the sin of sending children off to bed without saying, “i love you.”
the sin of not saying i’m sorry–or not being so.
the sin of not feeding yourself–body or soul.
this might be just the beginning. but for each of these, i am so heartily sorry. Father, forgive me, for i know not what i am doing.
i leave you now in prayerful silence. i leave you to this day that just might darken. i’ll be watching. trust me.
feel free, should it mean something, to cast a sin….