Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Week: Receiving in the Darkness

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

Those words rang out like a discordant chime from the pew behind me tonight at Mass. They made me pause as I heard them. Their familiarity is ingrained in me and for a moment, as I continued to say the words of the new Missal that I have been taught over the last two years, they made me consider that perhaps I was saying the wrong thing.  Of course, I wasn't, but hearing words spoken so confidently, from a sort of spiritual muscle memory, made my ears and heart perk up.

For the clash of liturgical norms that they stirred up within me, these words seem to fit at the beginning of this Holy Week.  Maybe, as this week begins, that's exactly what I need to be saying. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I will be healed.  

I stand at the threshold of this the holiest of weeks on the Christian calendar and I know that Jesus is coming. I watch as he mounts a donkey and parades into Jerusalem. Entering triumphantly on the back of an utterly ordinary creature, Christ comes into this final week of life inviting us into the extraordinary mystery of his life, death, and resurrection. His disciples may not have known it then, but we do now: this march triumphant and jubilant is also the beginning of the end. It is a procession toward the cross.

And so, as this week begins, I am struck by the way, even though the light of Easter is right around the corner, darkness rushes in.

As I watch Jesus ride past me into this week, I can only utter to myself... Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.   

I went to a late Mass tonight in celebration of Palm Sunday.  There is something intimate about the 8PM Mass I have found here in Chicago at Old St. Patrick's Church. The intricate Celtic designs of the church are somehow subdued by the night lighting; the crowds that fill the pews Sunday morning are slightly thinned, allowing for the feeling of being a part of a community of faith while also granting you a little space to yourself in the pew; and the beautiful stained glass windows normally illuminated in the daylight give way by nightfall to a lighting design that is cozy and calming, welcoming worshipers and inviting deep reflection.  And then, there is the music.  Let's just say it fits all that I've mentioned above- soft, reflective, enchanting, and serene- and so much more.

As Mass ended tonight, I could feel the darkness closing in. With a simple piano and violin accompaniment, we sang "Were You There." I had used John Angotti's version of the song for community prayer this afternoon, drawing off of Pope Francis' impromptu words today about entering into Holy Week and, in so doing, entering into the story of faith, the story of the Passion that we encounter these holy days.

We must ask "Who am I?" says Francis. Who am I in this story? What part do I play? and, most importantly, "Where is my heart?"

That is a question for all of us to ask.  As the words of the song rang out in the Church, something deeper came.  The song gave me goosebumps. I could feel the trembling within me, the "Oh" resonating from a depth created by pain, wisdom, experience, and grace, rooted in faith and self and yet beyond my very self all the same.

I closed my eyes as I sang and each time I opened my eyes, it was a little darker in the church... as if with each word the light was being drained from the sanctuary of Old St. Pat's.  By the end of the song, the light in the church was a dim glow. I felt depth within and the brief applause for the music ministry that broke the silence felt dreadfully out of place.

The darkness had come... the darkness of this holiest of weeks.

This is a time of reflection.  A time, the presiding priest reminded us, to listen for responses from God; to hear what God is trying to say to us at this very special, very sacred time.  Pope Francis' words echo is my ears, "Where is my heart?"  That question is a call. The call to be with Jesus this week, to be in the Passion- living, loved, forgiven, given, beloved.

There is much to be attentive to and so let us pray that we can be... attentive to God, to the deep call within, to the words that echo in our ears, and to the presence that is crying out to us.  May we be open to receiving Christ these days, no matter how difficult that may be. To hear God's words, to know God's love, to feel and encounter our God, and to allow ourselves, in the midst of darkness, to move toward all that is offered to us by the Light.

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.


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