Saturday, April 3, 2010
Really !?! ....Really ? This was the plan?!?!
The title of this bog came from Phillip, a friend of mine and spouse to one of the diocese's clergy. He and Miranda hosted and sculpted a liturgical "wake" last night at St. Andrew's in Hopkinton which was one of the most beautiful and creative liturgies and worship opportunities I have ever encountered. And having been a monk and a liturgical consultant, I have seen many impressive liturgies. The monastery in which I lived was world-renowned for their lavish and stunningly beautiful liturgies and I was particularly missing the SSJE Good Friday Liturgy (one of my favorites there - other than the Great Vigil) when I realized that I needed to, as my spiritual director said once "bloom where I am now planted."
The liturgy was very simple and very inexpensive (about $20) but stunningly moving and engaging. The lights were low. Tea (only tea - but good teas!) was available in big mugs and fresh hot cross buns were overflowing from a huge bowl - such a symbol of bounty - like, I suppose- a buffet at a wake - overflowing and bountiful.
There was a small circle of chairs set for intermittent gatherings of those present (it was drop-in from 8-11 pm)and between two huge, ancient beams was a coffin -and on it was an almost life-size icon on wood in paper and gold leaf and paints. The long icon covered the entire coffin and was of the Christ layed out in wrappings; quite dead. It was stylized and very beautiful - serene and peaceful and elegant and honest and unpretentious.
At the foot of the coffin was a small table with tools for those of us who had come -spices we could smell and place on the body, incense we could burn at His feet as would have been done in the burial caves, tall, Orthodox beeswax candles for memorial to other griefs - past funerals - deaths of friends or friendships or hopes or dreams or lost innocence or lost naivete. There were tulips to place on the coffin - on the icon. The tulips were fresh and bright and optimistic and simple (about $10.00 worth - breaking no parish budget).
There was a prayer bench next to the coffin and a few Windsor chairs (Hopkinton is, after all, a bit elegant!) There was no music to dull the sadness or anesthetize the pain and stillness of having to sit with one's own thoughts or lack of them. The speaking was only occasional - an invitation for those around the room to gather, to sit, to talk about the beloved who was dead - this Jesus. We spoke of Jesus as of a friend who had died today or recently. We spoke (those who could without tearing up) of our sadness and our complicity and our hopes. We sang a simple chant - a few lines, in shaky accapella, and then went back to mourning - everyone doing it in their own way. After a couple hours of people arriving and others leaving, we ended by Phillip's covering the icon with the shroud of the coffin, blowing out the candles, stepping back - away- slowly - backwards. And then singing an ancient Christian chant of the dead. We left in silence - taking home some of the Hot Cross buns. There is one here this quiet mourning - morning - with my coffee before I head off to lead a Holy Saturday retreat with the above icon of the Myrrh Bearing Women at the empty tomb.
What Phillip and Miranda offered to us last night was stunning in its simplicity and in its creativity and power too. There were so many tears last night. So much disappointment and so much grief of past hurts felt and done. So much confusion with God answering none of the questions. Not even the one Phillip spoke when reflecting on how the disciples must have felt in the time between horror and awe - that in-between time of numb dismay. Phillip, breaking the silence of the evening said simply "REALLY?!?! ...... I mean, REALLY!?!? This was your plan God!?!?!"
Easter is so hard to see in Holy Week - ant that "obscura" - that dark night is a healing thing. The tears and confusion seem somehow very healing - Like lancing a boil or pushing a dis-jointed shoulder back in place. A painful relief tears can be.