Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Worth the story

On Maundy Thursday, we stood.

It surprised me at first; for a moment I had forgotten that we stand when the Stripping of the Church begins, after the last notes of "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" are sung, after a stoic benediction has been offered. It's not like Sunday morning when the sunshine or even the gray seeps through the windows. There is no light from outside, it's slowly dimming, and whooshing cars outside are sometimes louder than the contemplating organ. I sat in the last seat in the farthest corner of the sanctuary, pinned in on my right by the great stone column that has been there for nearly ninety years. It felt comforting to touch, steady and cold, but not menacing. A comfort, knowing that this room - that's all it is, really, a large echoing room with saints painted by glass on the windows - has seen so many of these Thursday evening services. One each year. It has seen the long lines of folks trickling up to open their hands for bread and juice that is somehow more. It has heard the recounting, memorized the intonation, the responses, on the night on which he gave himself up for us... And it watched us as we stood, watching the pastors remove their stoles and shroud the golden cross in black veil, making a silence that even cars could not drown.

On Good Friday, we sat.

We sat, in my sanctuary that has known me since birth, and listened to the story, told in snippets by different voices, young and old. Each time, a candle was extinguished. The light lessened. It's almost a comfort, when the light inside joins with the light outside, taking a natural course, dimming with the evening sky. The cross, this one large, human-sized, rough and wooden, was also shrouded, with the shroud pulled tight, as if a body hung underneath. A stick stuck with a sponge propped itself against the cross's base, like a sword or a staff. We sat, and heard the voices grow even more hushed, and then he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit... A lone bell pierced the quiet, it is finished. And we sat in darkness. We breathed in air. We watched the silhouettes, the outlines of friends and community, melded together in this moment. Was it worship? Was it wonder? Was it fear and confusion? Or was it simply being - soaking, straining, waiting? We sat, and suddenly a sliver of light appeared on the altar, just above the cross. Warm light, pink, awash in springtime dusk. Some of us turned around, expecting that someone had opened the back door to prepare for our leaving, but no - it was shut tight. And so we watched the bob of sunlight shine on the wall, blinking down on the desolate cross, savoring the joy of its unexpected arrival.

On Easter Sunday, we rose.

We rose with the morning, gray and rainy though it was, and followed the throngs into the church and took our yellow forsythia flowers out of their plastic bag and laced them through the wooden braids of the free, un-shrouded cross. We rose with the trumpets and timpani and welcomed the words of redemption and resurrection, the words that make me cry, that sound so certain in their hope, where, o death, is now thy sting? And in these moments I know that in this is some kind of truth that I will never quite understand but I will struggle and sing all the same, made like him, like him we rise! We rose and offered the peace of Christ, of God, of love incarnate and holy friendship. We rose and walked to the altar and joined the choir in song, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and I sang with my lifetime friends and mentors and teachers and family and there is something in this, to know its strength, to know that we will sing these words courageously, through wilderness and oasis, no matter what comes. We rose, and went, prepared and yet unprepared, certain and yet uncertain, the glory of the flowered cross still resting in our vision, trying to comprehend if - and how - we can carry it out with us, into the world, how we can drape those we meet in the love it has taught us about, confused and frustrated us with, but ultimately given us the peace that it is worth the story, it is worth the standing silence, the seated waiting, the rising dawn.

1 comment:

Ann K said...

Claire... Can I talk to you again about going to seminary? :-)