I have not been where Holy Week was filled with pageantry and high drama. I am not exhausted, I don’t have anything new to wear tomorrow, no sermon I carefully prepared for over days and days. If I understand our relationship with the musician at St. Paul’s correctly, there will not even be music at the 9:30 service when we will have a baptism and bid farewell to the current priest-in-charge. There won’t be coffee hour because on this, the 1st Sunday of the month, the 11 o’clock community service is at another one of the churches.
What there has been has been beautiful in its simplicity. Seeing a community that’s been dealing with the life-threating illness of one of the parish elders and lots else, I took the liberty of reading only about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem last Sunday. Over a couple of weeks, I prepared the materials for the presentation of the Last Supper that was introduced to me when I went through training for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Instead of doing the foot washing, we talked about Jesus who tells us he is our friend, and who found the way to help his friends understand how he is with us in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. I’ve done this on other Maundy Thursdays, but it was always sandwiched in with foot washing (and all the small anxieties that part of the liturgy provokes), Eucharist, and the stripping of the altar. On Thursday night, it was pared down to the essentials.
Yesterday in the late afternoon, about 10 of us gathered back at St. Paul’s and read the passion narrative of the Gospel of Mark. It is a horrible, gut-wrenching story. Unadorned by prayer or rite, bracketed by silence on either end, the simple, spare writing in Mark, the almost matter-of-fact chronology laid out for our reflection, was somehow more devastating than usual.
Today I made a pastoral visit in the morning and on the way back home, stopped along the road to pick flowers—I don’t even know their names, except one: Crimson Clover. I came home and put them, and some of the azaleas growing in our own yard, in Mason jars I will use later this summer to can peaches, plums and figs and arranged them on our mantel.
When I was sorting through stuff in preparation for our move to Lowndesboro, I found some Easter decorations my mom gave me years ago. I had hidden them from my own self and in our bigger house, unpacked and put them in the “holiday closet”—I feel almost guilty owning up to having that kind of closet full of decorations for different holidays. I just had to run upstairs to bring them down. It hit me hard to think about my mom and how she enjoyed Easter. It was incredibly sweet to put her decorations up, as well as others I have received from friends.
Tomorrow, a few friends from Selma will share a meal with us at lunch time, we will laugh and carry on for a while and I suspect I will end the day like I do most days now, sitting with Sherod, watching our chickens. In the absence of the drama and pageantry, the enormity of the mystery we contemplate as we behold the cross and then, find an empty tomb is almost—but not quite—too much. It’s a gently curving, somewhat muddy, and still beautiful, river of joy, like the Alabama River, like the River Jordan.