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….
Barbara, That was beautiful, amazingly beautiful. Thank YOU.
I never knew about Holy Thursday and footwashing. I can see how humbling it could be as washer or washee. Powerful. And, I will watch the sky in silence this afternoon, too.
i didn’t grow up in a superstitious family per say, but I too would ponder the dark skies of good friday when I was a little girl. It was typical that we would have the day off from school and it was also typical that we would go to the evening good friday service instead of the noon service. While my mom prepared the house for easter during the day, i would put on my rubber mud boots and traipse down into the lower reaches of our 16 acre woods. There I would walk as close as possible to the bogs and try to grab a cattail or pussywillow. I remember wondering if I too would see the curtain rip in the sky and would the sky still remember this day on the hill of the crosses. I don’t think anyone told me I had to be introspective and quiet, yet it felt right and so it became my Good Friday tradition.As I stand here today, knowing the reality of violence on war-torn soil and poverty that seems so close yet so far away, I wonder how it is that I turn and look the other way or choose to bite my tongue. For this sin I am sorry.A sin for me is all of the multitasking, all of the ways that my mind moves simultaneously forwards and back. I cannot get to Easter morn without sitting in the silence of today. I pray that today will be a day where I enter into the present and stay there until the next moment begins.Thanks for the place of confession and absolution via our table.
bam,absolutely beautiful, thoughtful writing and photography. this is why “pull up a chair” is so powerful. just one thing, which i know you already know: when jews confess these sins, they confess them collectively, not individually. “for the sin we have committed by not respecting mothers and fathers, etc.” it’s always “we”–and, trust me, it’s not the royal we. in that vein, i think your litany of sins has to be understood as the beginning of a collective litany, though i know that it is deeply personal. just don’t put all the weight on yourself. all of us have done these things. that is the brilliant universality of what you write. (honestly, though, i don’t think i can confess on the web. i’d rather do that in an old-fashioned catholic confessional, in schul on yom kippur, or with a priest or rabbi over dinner. l,b
Thank you Barbie for reaching deep and letting it fly. You are a spark plug in the very pistons of life. I too was a meteorologist every Good Friday (as a kid) watching the sky, pondering the stations of the Cross. (BDK is this a collective, or individual confession) How many times do I choose to let people’s opinions and circumstances overwhelm me INSTEAD OF simply trusting the Lord for the victory? I’m like the Apostle Peter in the courtyard, denying Christ. Ouch.Everyone has sinned (screwed up)– but there’s good news: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:6)
This is beautiful and provoking. I will print it and post it where I can read it regularly, not just here at the computer. Thank you.
Barb, you have captured the day—-I need to add forgiving myself for the things I could have done and did not do and for the things I did and wish I had not donegoing back to the teaching of the nuns in habit: the sins of commission and omissionToday of all days, I want to remember that to “crucify” myself is a way for me to be focused just on me and be miserable all at the same time.I am ready for JOY in my life.
The tears are falling … I have no words.
in my little childhood church, when the glorious windows were covered for the only time in the year — the men of the church reaching up with long poles to pull the drapes that were there for this one day, and only this day — and the church lost its glorious light. and when the candles were extinguished one by one, so slowly that it hurt the heart. (“jesus, in thy dying woes,” went the hymn). . . .i realized the depth of pain in every sin of mine — the depth of the offense. and the breadth of the redemption.it is mortification; it is rebirth. the hours until easter dawn are so precious.
In the Pacific North-West we always have rain at 3:00 on Good Friday. It always seems appropriate. Thank you, Barbara, for your thoughtful confession…so simply human yet so profound.
So glad you linked this to the 3/30/18 blog. Had not seen this one. All the sins above, yep, those are mine. And so many more. We all fall short. My beloved David used to say, it’s two steps forward, three steps back, but what matters is which way are you facing? Jesus teaches us to face towards G-d, for we shall all be saved by G-d’s mercy.
dear beautiful, now home and able to reply to your beautiful wisdom, david’s wisdom. i love this. love you. happy easter. xoxox