This Holy Week, only the essentials are happening. Only services which are advertised and which require me are graced with my presence. I am taking a long time to regain strength after my recent attack of plague (ok it was only flu), so I’m having to direct my strength. On a good day I’m not bad, at a bad point, standing for half an hour to celebrate Holy Communion is too much.
I’ve missed being in the Cathedral with my fellow deacons and priests for the Chrism Mass. Renewing my ordination vows shoulder to shoulder with a couple of hundred of my brethren and sistren is affirming, being fed by my Bishop, my Father in Christ, on Maundy Thursday is part of my spiritual sustenance. Yesterday as I saw pictures and posts from around the dioceses, I felt lonely and adrift.
But this is my second Holy Week here. This year, instead of using the forms to which the congregation has been accustomed, I’ve done a little rejigging. And so it was yesterday evening. We started at the back of church, in the baptistery, with a bring and share buffet, and the Liturgy of the Word. It was informal and we laughed, prayed and washed feet together, talking about the shock to the disciples, not of having their feet washed, that was normal, but of having their leader wash their feet when it was a servant’s menial task. There hasn’t been any tradition of foot washing here for some years, so thee was a lot of trepidation, but about half of those present gave it a go. Beautifully warm water, fluffy towel, and I’m told that a kiss to each cleaned foot is appropriate too – although I didn’t!
Then a move to the chancel, Holy Communion…Do this to re-member me, said Jesus, so we did. Afterwards the slow reading of the final chapters of John’s Gospel as we stripped the church of every bit of decoration, and the lights became dimmer and dimmer until it was just about dark, as we read of Jesus being laid in the tomb.
The normally happily chatty congregation left in silence. I appreciated my son’s comment after – “that started really merry, then got proper powerful.”
I reckon the disciples must have felt merry at the Passover meal. They’d made it through a turbulent few days, but everything was ok, the festival was finally here and what could go wrong now? Sure, Jesus had washed their feet, but the Teacher often did and said odd things, what was one more? Perhaps they didn’t notice as Judas slipped away, or assumed he’d nipped out as one must. But then things turned strange with bread and wine. The party broke up, and instead of sleep, Jesus needed prayer and company.
Gethsemane, the arrest, the trial, desertion,whipping and the cross. A sharp descent from party to death and desolation. Welcome to Good Friday.