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Friday, April 06, 2012

It is the heart that is to blame

When I was in public elementary school, we were always dismissed at 11 AM on Good Friday so that we could all be in church by noon. We did the Stations of the Cross and then were dismissed while many of our grandparents and those parents who could afford not to work sat in the church in silence until 3 PM, remembering the Seven Last Words of Jesus.

From 1-3 PM, we kids usually played stick ball or soft ball but we had to maintain silence. Round about 2:30, however, we were usually falling down, killing ourselves with silent laughter at the ridiculous enterprise of playing a team sport in silence.

Finally, some adult would come by and send us all home with the stern admonishment to keep silence all the way home - and, no stopping off at the market for a snack. It was straight home and no talking or "I'll tell your parents".

And, they would. Or, someone would spot us on the street, pull over in their car and give us a few whacks upside the head and a good tongue lashing.

Ah, those were the days!

It was always always cause for some alarm, however, when, sometime during that noon to 3 PM period of time, a cloud would cover the sun. Or, unpredictably, a light rain would come from out of nowhere - just for a few minutes - and then, just as suddenly, stop.

As little kids, we thought sure this was a "sign" from God. Surely, the heavens were weeping in remembrance of that terrible "Good Friday" when Jesus hung on the cross until he died.

My grandmother would say, "What those men did to Jesus was horrible. Even the sun is ashamed to shine on this day".

So, we would ask, what's so 'good' about Good Friday?

"It was good," she would say, hand on hip, as if talking to morons, "because Jesus died for us."

We still didn't get it.  It's not an easy concept to understand.

The sun is shining brightly today, glistening and dancing on the water. The early April wind feels more like March. It is gusting, blowing away any temporary warmth the sun might provide and causing white caps to form on the water.

There's no sign of rain, but it remains to be seen if we'll get a cloud to cover the sun before 3 PM.

I was reminded of my grandmother's words when I read Steven Charleston's very brief but very powerful Good Friday meditation. Steven Charleston is the retired bishop of Alaska and the former President and Dean of The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.

He wrote:
"Life begins in the tomb. Vision is born of darkness. Hope emerges from despair. Since time first played the music that set the human mind to dance, we have watched the waltz of yin and yang, across the floor of heaven. No light without dark, no life without death. The pattern is not the problem. It is the heart that is to blame. For no change occurs without feeling, that pain that turns the balance of creation to poetry, when what we see so clearly is obscured by the tears we cannot avoid, a child seeing the flower wither, an elder bidding the sun good-bye."
I don't know if, as a child, I would have been able to completely comprehend Bishop Charleston's words, but I think I would have appreciated the word of hope rather than the stage of gloom and doom set by the adults of my youth.

It's easy to lose your balance on a day like today. To feel the feelings and then get lost in them.

Many do. My phone is strangely quiet today. I'm used to getting phone calls from people who can't quite put their finger on what's wrong but they are haunted by old memories, ghosts of betrayals past, pained by wounds that have not yet healed.

"The pattern is not the problem," says Bishops Charleston, "It is the heart that is to blame."

Today, on this Good Friday, let us consider "the pain that turns the balance of creation to poetry".

Let us remember that the forsythia which now blaze in yellow glory but was, just a few weeks ago, a dry and brittle bush, desolately clinging to the hard, cold earth.

Let us remember the crocus and the jonquils who stubbornly push their heads above the ground, bidding us to remember that new life lies just beneath the surface of what appears like death.

Let us open our hearts to feel the feelings of this day, knowing that we are safe to do so. The pattern is not the problem. It's simply that it has yet to more fully emerge.

Yes, it is Good Friday. But, Easter is coming.

Take heart.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

To snitch from what I put on another friend's Facebook page: "It's hard to verbalize without sounding like some kind of anguish junkie...but I guess what I would say is these three days remind me of many places in my life that had deep anguish, and eventually, healing, and it seems like church, in these three days, is where I can feel them in a safe place."

Yeah. That.

RevMama said...

Beautifully written, as always. Yes, indeed, it is the heart that is to blame. Holy Week and Easter are the time of the breaking - and healing - of hearts.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kirke - Well, 'nuff said.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Rev Mama - Amen.