Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pictures from Jerusalem

Bringing to mind Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The stones Jesus walked on, as he made his way to Golgotha carrying his cross.

The Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was lain after his crucifixion, and from where he rose on the third day.

Holy Saturday

Last Thursday was Maundy Thursday, and the service at the Cathedral was remarkable on so many levels.  In addition to the usual readings and the concluding ceremony of stripping the altar, there were three extraordinary features:  First, in addition to the customary washing of the feet, the Cathedral took it beyond the usual symbolic gesture of washing the feet of only a few representatives from the congregation.  Usually, the excuse for doing that is that it is less time-consuming than including everyone.  Well, at the Cathedral, where there were probably well over a hundred people, everyone who wished to be included was welcomed to come forward.  The chancel area behind the altar had two rows of chairs with a kneeler in front of each chair and one of the servers standing by. People lined up at either side of the altar to be conducted to a chair.  One person knelt on the kneeler (a low cushioned stool) and washed one foot of the one on the chair.  Then, the one on the chair knelt and washed one foot of the next person who came to occupy the chair.  So it went on, so that after having your foot washed, you washed the next person's foot.  At each chair, there was a lovely ceramic bowl for the foot to rest over, and the server poured the water (tepid, not cold) over the foot and the foot-washer washed the foot.  Then the server provided a big white fluffy towel for the foot-washer to dry the other person's foot. The basin was emptied after each person's washing and the towels were fresh and clean. It was done slowly and reverently.  I would say that most of the congregation participated. 
The second extraordinary feature was the preacher.  He was the Bishop of Galilee, from Nazareth.  My friend had the privilege of washing the foot of the man from Galilee! 
The third extraordinary feature--at least new to my experience but not unique to the Cathedral, I'm told, was that after the altar had been stripped (to the singing of Psalm 22), the Dean and the Archdeacon proceeded to wash the altar carefully and reverently and thoroughly. 
As is the custom of the Anglican church (and other denominations, no doubt) people left the building in silence.  This is Day One of the Triduum: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fridays in Lent

Today is the Friday before Palm Sunday, a Day of Penitence for Franciscans around the world.  Counting Good Friday, there are seven Fridays in Lent, today is the sixth--six being an imperfect number because it is one short of seven, the perfect number. 
Today, in preparation for next Friday, I sought out (via Google) the booklet I bought in Jerusalem last year.  I have the booklet "someplace safe", which means I'll come across it in a very logical place but when I'm not looking for it.  That happens to me all the time.  But I knew it was online, and here it is: the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.  This is the way I prayed the Stations of the Cross with Franciscans in Jerusalem one Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday morning stories

When it's someone in their 90s, we can accept their death more easily.  It is still sad.  We still mourn them because we miss them.  But when it's a young person who dies, it's harder to accept.  As Christians, we usually don't allow ourselves to get angry with God.  Yet, when we read the psalms, we find that some very holy people got angry with our Creator quite a lot. Even Jesus, from the cross borrowed words from Psalm 22 to express his anguish and anger: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
When my grandson drowned I got angry with God.  Derek was 22 years old.  He died on his sister's 19th birthday.  His father, my eldest son, was dying of cancer. It wasn't fair.  And then, adding insult to injury, the Gospel reading the next Sunday had something to do with Jesus saving a young person from death.  I was so upset that I can't even remember which story it was.  Maybe it was the centurian's child.  Or the girl, to whom Jesus said, "Talitha cum,"  or "Little girl, get up."  Whichever story it was, when I heard it I was outraged.  Why save that child and not my grandson?  I don't know.  God alone knows the answers to these questions.  Death of a loved one is not always easy to accept.
The stories we told after lunch at St. Thomas today were not like the one about my grandson.  Most of the people there knew about that already.  Our stories were more light-hearted.  For example:  I think it was Gertrude Stein who, on her deathbed, was moaning, "What is the answer?  What is the answer?"  And then, finally, she sat up and with her last breath said, "What's the question?"
I think I know the question. 
But one more story:  The priest told this one:  Oscar Wilde was not a rich man when he died.  In fact, the room that he was lying in was dingy and dark.  As he lay on his bed, facing the ugly old wallpaper, he used his last breath to quip: "One of has got to go!"

Wednesday morning after Mass

On Wednesday mornings, we go to Mass at St. Thomas Anglican Church.  On the first Wednesday of the month, we have lunch together.  We take turns making and bringing the soup, buns, and maybe some cookies.
There are between ten and fifteen of us, as a rule.  Conversation tends to be rather lively. Or maybe that's not the right word for today's conversation which, for some reason or another, turned to the subject of death.
Yes, I know.  You come here for all the fun topics, right?  Like how much I love the season of Lent--all that self-sacrificing and penance.
I guess it started because the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday is the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  As all but two or three of us are up in our 70s and 80s, maybe we have a different take on the end of life on this earth.  Anyway, the subject came up about the last moments on earth, especially last words.  Here are some of the stories:
My own story was one about my grandmother.  I wasn't there, so I can't swear to its accuracy, but this is how I remember it being told to me:
My grandmother, age 94 or 95, had been in and out of a sort of coma for some time.  But every morning my uncle went into her room and opened the curtains.  One morning, he was doing that when Grandma suddenly sat up.  He said good morning and asked her how she was.  She said she was fine, but then looked down at her nightie and seemed sad.  "What's wrong?" my uncle asked. 
"Nothing," she said, "but I see I'm wearing my pink nightie."
"Would you like to change?" he asked, and called in my aunt to help her.
When she had changed into her nice new white nightie and had her hair brushed, Grandma smiled and said,"Well, I'm sure God wouldn't mind my pink nightie, but I think he'll like my white one better."  And with that she lay down and died.
I want to go like that!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Stations of the Cross for children

Here's a simple yet meaningful way for children (or those of us who refuse to grow up) to walk the via dolorosa.  As I viewed this series of meditations, I remembered the two weeks I spent at station 3 of the via dolorosa last year.  I remember each of the stations, how it felt to walk with the Franciscans on my last Friday in Jerusalem.  It's hard to hold back the tears.