Presence to yesterday’s commemoration – Good Friday – left me speechless, unable to really share much here. There is a power in re-living these days with Jesus as full days with mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights. On Holy Thursday night, after the vigil, the betrayal and denial and arrest play in our imaginations. Then the “trial” – and a Jesus silent or speaking (depending on which Gospel you attend to) – who stands alone, asked about truth. Morning light brings crowds calling for crucifixion, thorns and lashes, and condemnation. Eventually there is an excruciating trip with a cross through streets and to a hill, and unspeakable loss and psychological pain along with the physical. The passion leads us to places where it is hard to get footing, and perhaps to memories of other “passions” in our lives or in others and, I hope, a tender fierce honoring of the suffering of others.
I have been re-reading these days A Retreat with St. Bonaventure by Leonard Bowman, which I highly recommend. In it there is prose-poetry (yes, a combination!) that is the prayer of the believer as s/he encounters moments in Jesus’ life. See if these selections taken from reflections on the experience of Jesus’ death speak to you. And find a sister-mother-disciple-presence with you in this place, and in your own passion-ing and darkness living.
Encountering Jesus in the Conflict of Death (excerpted from pp. 160-1, 164)
HELP! The storm is tearing me loose… there is no footing, and nothing to grab hold of! I’m falling, spinning in the darkness…
Yes, you must go through this. Now there is no help that you can know or feel. In this darkness the strongest faith reveals that it is faith, not a fact you have in your hand. The firmest hope reveals that it is a promise, not a thing possessed. Now you know that letting go means losing everything that you can relay on for support and assurance. Everything falls away. . . and now you spin helplessly in the feeling of falling.
What is happening to me?
Your “I” is falling away. Your heart must wait, be shattered, endure.
… Mary stands silent, oblivious to the confusion about her. She looks only at the hanging body of her son. She doesn’t know! She cannot see ahead to what God will make of this! She too is caught in the whirlwind, and everything she has lived for hangs dead before her…. Her path has led into darkness, and with Jesus’ death she must let go of… everything. It is as if she has died with him. She is crucified with Christ. But, she does not yet know the rest. For now, she endures. Where is God? He has spoken by angels or by thunder before. Why is he silent to her now, of all times?
Voices and visions are for the beginning of the path. God’s presence now is beyond what we know or feel, beyond what is possible to know or feel. His word is silence now; his brightness is darkness. Otherwise how shall we pass through the veil, beyond into God? But for now, silence and darkness.
But what can we do for Mary? Be silent. Wait with her.
…Stay close to Mary in your spinning darkness. You will call on her steadfastness as your refuge.