A priest prepares for Holy Week

Anxiety lies like a knot,

a clot,

stopping the flow

and twisting,

blocking

all in its path.

Sleep is distant

as images come unbidden

and lists form

and then get stuck.

Stuck like beads on a necklace

with knots keeping them in place,

preventing them from

sliding smoothly

to and fro,

ebb and flow.

What will it take

to slip the knot

unblock the clot

to let the stream

rush once more

over the pebble dam,

laughing and gurgling,

splashing and foaming,

free to go where it will?

What will it take

to find that clear pool of grace?

The clock chimes

and I’m minded

that it is time to pray.

Night Watch

Is it here, God, in this garden
where the light wind stirs the leaves
silvered in the hard blue moonlight
– is it here that we must struggle
in the dialogue of self with self?
But the words are hardly spoken
when the vast and swelling ache
– a kind of joy, but of such sharpness
that I gasp, and words are stilled –
of the God so close within me
grows and self is marginalised,
pushed towards the edge of being
so that all I know is Him.
In this sudden fiery knowledge
friends who cannot understand
seem ephemeral and tiny –
Pray, I tell them, watch and pray,
as it comes upon me fiercely
that the end is here, this night,
that the God I carry in me
brooks no shrinking from this goal.
Now my soft palms spread in pleading
look so gentle, feel so dear
and this vulnerable body
breathes and weeps in dread of pain,
till the world turns and the strangers
bring this night watch to its close
and the brother’s kiss of greeting
a last gentle touch of love.

©C.M.M.
I wish I knew how to post this so that the previous post came after it chronologically, but I don’t. It was written during the Maundy Watch last year. (done. KB)

Journeying in Holy Week

I first started going to church when I was in my late 20s. My very first experience of church was High Scottish Episcopal with bells and smells and all the drama I could have asked for. And I loved it.

I vividly remember my first Holy Week. Each night I went to church and watched the story unfold. Outdoor processions waving palms; listening to the harrowing story of the Passion being sung; compline; footwashing; the stark stripping of the altars; the Watch at the Altar of Repose; Confession; walking the Stations of the Cross; three priests in black throwing themselves to the ground on Good Friday making me gasp; the Veneration of the Cross; the preparation of the church on Holy Saturday; and then the Vigil of Easter at midnight with fire and light and water and alleluias. That first Easter I was so happy and I believed.

By the end of it all, I couldn’t believe how emotional and tired I felt. It was as if I had been to the theatre every night for a week and been traumatised by what I had seen. That first Holy Week has stayed with me ever since. The smells of incense and a myriad of candles; the images and lack of them; the taste of a ‘dry mass’; the dark and the light.

The following year, as Holy Week approached, we were sitting in the pub after church. I asked if there was a book I could get that would explain it all to me. This year I wanted to be prepared so that I knew what was going to happen. A few people shook their heads and muttered that they couldn’t think of a book that would help and then one man said, “Yes, I know of a book that would tell it all.”  I took out my filofax, got my pen, and said, “OK, what’s the name of this book?”

“The bible,” he answered wearily.

Gesthemane

“Stay here while I go and pray”

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch”

*ring….ring*

“Dad? Yea it’s me”

“I know, I know, you’ve told me before, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” He notices his friends are not awake.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes”

He rouses Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

He went back to talk to His dad.

“No the others were asleep, they can’t stay awake, I just wanted a chat”

“I know it’s the same thing, I’m tired and I know my time is close”

“Guys! What are you doing? Stay awake with me!” They said nothing, they had nothing to say so he returned to his for a third time.

“Ok, sorry. Just help make me strong and prepare those I’m leaving behind to cope.”

“Most will be fine, I’m most worried about Simon Peter, he might lose the rag a bit, I’ll make sure John and James look out for him”

“I’d better get back to them, I’ll see you soon.”

“Love you”

He returned to them a final time “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Judas my betrayer is approaching”

Church today was a great service but I found it odd in a way, we start it very happy with Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and move towards the sadness and pain of approaching crucifixion