Friday, April 3, 2015

At the Altar of Repose, or, Stay Here and Keep Watch With Me


I took this during my Holy Hour this morning

I was at the Altar of Repose this morning just after daybreak. I don't really know when it was that they would have arrested Jesus, so I don't know whether or not he would have still been here, praying. But I am here because I promised to keep a watch. I am praying and contemplating and trying to find my way through all the overwhelming toil of the world.

I was talking with my pastor yesterday and he was describing how the Tenebrae liturgy on Wednesday night was intended to make people feel uncomfortable and overcome by words of lamentation. In my opinion, it worked quite well. The lamentations resonated with me and felt appropriate for the solemnity of Holy Week.

Last night at the Maundy Thursday liturgy, there was discomfort. We were chanting psalm 22 as the altar was stripped and anything shiny or meant for celebration was removed from our worship space. Then the altar was scrubbed using the holy water from the baptismal font and the leftover palms from last Sunday. It was poetic and powerful and uncomfortable, to see those items used in that way.

Today is the day that God dies. I always return to that on Good Friday because it such a violation of a fundamental component of faith. I mean, God is always supposed to be here, right? God is always supposed to comfort and heal us. But today, of all says, when we need the comfort of God when our Savior dies, comfort is not there because God has died on the cross.

Yes, I know that I have Christian brothers and sisters who disagree with me, saying that it was only a vicarious death and God was still there to give resurrection. But my belief is that God-in-Jesus, the Christ, the one appointed to be the Messiah, dies today in the fullest sense of that word.

Most of us know how the story ends, but here... today... this morning... at the Altar of Repose, there is still hope that this tragedy might be avoided. Maybe they have not come to arrest Jesus yet. Maybe we can still avoid the Romans and the Sanhedrin and we can get Jesus out of Jerusalem. Or maybe we can stir up a rebellion and give them more pressing matters to attend to than a man from Nazareth.

Any way it happens, we might still get to keep our leader, our Messiah. Maybe we can still come out on top. Maybe our worst fears won't come true...

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