Dear People of God:

March 22, 2016 Comments Off on Dear People of God:

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Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Grand Junction, CO. Icons written by Anthanasios Clark

I hope everyone is having a meaningful Lent. It’s Holy Week and it’s time to hunker down, to press in, and to show up.

We hear echoes of tales Jesus told, and one of the themes which strikes me most at this time of year is the one where Jesus implores us to reinvent our relationship with God, and encourages us to talk to God like a friend, like a lover, sharing secrets, dreams, and cares. Henri Nouwen writes:

[He] came to us to help us overcome our fear of God. As long as we are afraid of God, we cannot [wholeheartedly] love God. Love means intimacy, closeness, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety. But all of those are impossible as long as there is fear. Fear creates suspicion, distance, defensiveness, and insecurity. The greatest block in the spiritual life is fear. Prayer, meditation, and education cannot come forth out of fear. God is perfect love, and as John the Evangelist writes, “Perfect love drives out fear.” Jesus’ central message is that God loves us with an unconditional love and desires our love, free from all fear, in return.

It’s interesting to me, there are a couple of times in the Church Year when we are directly addressed from the altar: For Lessons and Carols, whether at Advent or Christmastide:

“Beloved in Christ, in this season of [Advent], let it be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the Angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, to see the Babe lying in a manger…”;

then the biggie, on Ash Wednesday:

“Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting…I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word…”

Other than private devotions or going to a daily Eucharist or communal Daily Office, it’s odd to me that in the Western tradition we have this empty space between the emotional high of The Sunday of the Passion (TWO services in ONE! Props! Anthems! Hymns! Collects! Sprinkling! Salutation! Procession! “Let us go forth in peace,” but don’t go ANYWHERE ! ‘cause we got a Eucharist ! WHEE ! “Ride on, ride on, in majesty! The angel armies of the sky look down with sad and wondering eyes to see the approaching Sacrifice”), and then nothing until Tenebrae (Latin for “shadows” or “darkness”), if that service is offered, or Maundy Thursday, and there are no further instructions, no additional bidding from the altar for services which are crucial, not only to our faith and our tradition but to our very spiritual survival, and nobody says a thing, it’s just listed in the service leaflet.

Speaking of which … please, PUHLEASE ! try and make it to Saint Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street for The Office of Tenebrae Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at 5.30 pm and, if you can’t, do listen to the podcast (http://bit.ly/1S0jA7e).
(I posted about my experience once here http://bit.ly/1I2cM8T).
The service feels very monastic and is treated with great reverence and it’s hard to describe the awe I feel sitting in that landmark built in 1911. As you’re listening to the plainchant of the Psalms, you’re staring at the 60 figures of the magnificent reredos which is 80 feet high, with every Saint and Angel imaginable standing over you. You marvel at the vaulted ceilings which disappear in to the heavens like the enchanted ceiling in the Hogwarts refectory, and you realize the building is stone on stone, without any steel reinforcement, and then all you can see is a blue-you’ve-never-imagined-in-the-sunset-blue stained glass windows as the church grows darker still. One year, during a particularly difficult Lent, I remember coming out of the service and yelling, “I believe ! I get it ! I believe it all !”

Anyway … it’s odd, to me, as we’re hanging here between Palm Sunday and the Easter-Holy-Paschal Triduum (Latin for “three days”) which begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday (the vigil of Good Friday) with the Foot Washing, the Reserving of the Sacrament, the Agapé Supper, the Stripping of the Altar, and the Vigil at the Altar of Repose; then the silence and contemplation, with the Solemn Collects, of Good Friday; then another sort of empty day with Holy Saturday prayers; and then the The Great Vigil of Easter which, seriously, how beautifully do we do that service, huh? and how GLORIOUS ! when we get to ring them bells, that there are no supplemental instructions. Until now …

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, in this silence with no official bidding from the altar, there came such a roar from the pulpit with preaching “so good that it knocked my socks off and right in to the washin’ machine down the hall,” as they say where I’m from, our very own Mother Posey Krakowsky issued some instructions. It took everything in me not to stamp my feet and scream when she finished. It put me in mind of something our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, says in A Call to Follow Jesus:

“…being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teachings seriously, letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives, and in so doing, helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream.”

Here is part of Mother Posey’s bidding:

“…We are … complicit in the Christian Hope. We are called to bear witness to God’s choice to share our human nature – to be deeply embedded in all of it – the joy and the grief of human life … what we will be doing this week is not performance art. It is not a theater event. It is not an historical re-enactment. We are not an audience watching a show. We are participants. We are involved. What this week IS is a chance for us … to intentionally encounter God’s loving embrace of the world. It is a call to no longer accept our systems as “how things are.” A call that offers us different ways to imagine how things can be. Join in the three-day liturgy of the Triduum as fully as you can. Make the choice to intentionally explore how Jesus is active in our lives right now, at this moment … Please, this week…Dive in. See where it takes you. Allow yourself to experience how Christ is present and working in your life – right here, right now.” (note: the entire sermon will eventually appear here: http://www.stlukeinthefields.org/sermons)

I will, with God’s help. Will you join me?

Love,

your pal dasch

 

 

 

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