Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday

Today I am taking a page from my past writing. The following meditation was written 17 years ago after a Maundy Thursday service:

As I walked up the street toward All Saints Church, I saw the purple banner draped across the doorway. There was a flash of recognition, an acknowledgment, even a welcoming of the pain of brokenness. I realized that as I have grown older and experienced life more fully, I have a greater identification with Christ’s passion. I thought of how my three year old daughter experiences life, and I flashed back to my own awareness at that age, comparing it with other stages of my life. At the earliest stages, I knew happiness and sadness. Later I came to know greater disappointment and sorrow. I also came to know greater joy.

Tonight there is an immediate recognition of the pain of brokenness. There is an acceptance that this is a part of life. There is also a satisfaction and a hope, supported by experience, that new life -- resurrection -- will follow. In the church calendar there is a built-in cycle of life, suffering, pain, brokenness, sorrow, death, resurrection, celebration, joy, life.

My own experience confirms that we must pass through these stages. They come just as surely in real life as they are reflected in the church year. Would I have it any other way? Certainly not! The joy and completeness that I have known as I have grown older more than match the sorrow and brokenness that I’ve known. I welcome life as a whole. That is why I greet the penitent banner and the brokenness of the season with satisfaction. The church calendar and my own memories tell me that resurrection will follow.

Just as Christ entered into the brokenness and rebirth cycle of my own world, I am baptized into the passion and resurrection of his. It is only with time and experience that I slowly come to realize this and readily accept it.


Postscript: While we all experience pain and brokenness, the following work by William Blake can serve to remind us not to inflict unnecessary pain and brokenness upon the innocent. These words from over 200 years ago are especially poignant in light today's church scandals.

Holy Thursday by William Blake

Holy Thursday (Songs of Innocence)

'Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two & two, in red & blue & green,
Grey-headed beadles walk'd before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul's they like Thames' waters flow.
O what a multitude they seem'd, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands.
Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.


Holy Thursday (Songs of Experience)

Is this a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reducd to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?
Is that trembling cry a song!
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor,
It is a land of poverty!
And their sun does never shine.
And their fields are bleak & bare.
And their ways are fill'd with thorns
It is eternal winter there.
For where-e'er the sun does shine,
And where-e'er the rain does fall:
Babe can never hunger there,
Nor poverty the mind appall.



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