Friday, March 21, 2008
Holy Thursday-this is long and religious-skip over if you are not interested!
Ford Madox Brown. Jesus Washing Peter's Feet. 1852-56. retouched several times up to 1892. Oil on canvas 46 x 52 l/4 in. Tate Gallery, London.
The Easter Triduum is big for me. It is the 3 days from sundown on Holy Thursday to sunrise on Easter Sunday. It is the culmination of the Judeo-Christian year. To me it is the high point of my entire spiritual year. Yes, I think about my spiritual year, From Easter to Easter, how am I doing? Did I have a good lent this year? Have I grown at all, conquered any sins? done any good works? I think about all of these things, usually find that I have fallen short in so many ways, and try to make the commitment to do better this year.
But Holy Thursday night, that beautiful service that celebrates the priesthood, recalls Jesus' request that we serve each other, begins the lonely night of the agony in the garden when Jesus pleads with us to stay awake with him for just one hour; this service is so rich with emotion for me. I feel it deeply. The hard loneliness this world put on my Lord. And in recent years, with the priest scandals, the prejudice and scorn throw toward many good and innocent men. Yes there has been horrible, damaging sin committed by a few priests. They are men, and men sin. We are a fallen race, and priests are just as susceptible to corruption as anyone else. It is a tragedy, unfair and the damage goes deep. But, there are also many really good priests in this world, who are doing Gods work, given their entire lives to it. They are a part of every family but belong to no family. They are there to comfort people during every tragedy, celebrate your weddings, they are privy to your very deepest secrets which they bear on their shoulders alone and take with them to their graves. They work quietly in the trenches,unseen mostly, helping people pick up their lives at times and trying only to guide people to their beloved God. This quiet work they do, and the lives they touch, the word mostly never gets out.
I am in a unique position. I have a brother who is a priest, he is the pastor at the church my family attends, a leader in the community we belong to, my teenage sons high school principal, their basketball coach, uncle, friend. Because of this, people tell me things. They tell me how my brother has affected their lives. How he rushed to the hospital to be with their family when somone was sick, how he called their troubled teen in for a non-confrontational talk about school, and it made all the difference, how he said just the right thing at the right time to really help someone. I hear this a lot. I see his gift with children, especially teens. I watch how he gives them responsibility and makes them a part of our community.
During the Holy Thursday service, 12 people act as apostles and the priest washes their feet. Last night it felt so poignant to watch our 12 apostles, all young high school men, having their feet washed by their own assistant principal(also a priest at our parish) while my brother, their pastor and principal attended. Their faces were slightly embarrassed but also honored. It was not somber, there was a feeling of camaraderie between the priests, deacon, servers and the boys having their feet washed. These are boys I have known for years, my own 2 sons among them. I have watched these guys grow, cheered them on in their endeavors, I am friends with their parents, we all share in this community. And here is the man in charge of discipline at their school, an authority figure, subject to that unique blend of teen ridicule and respect, on his knees before them, washing their feet! It was profound. How better can you teach everyone in that church, what Jesus meant by service to others! Once again I am blown away by the lessons one man taught during a brief 3 year ministry, 2000 years ago!