Saturday, March 15, 2008

Preparing for Holy Week

Before we talk about my plans for Jake's place during the next week, I want to tell you what is going on in my life right now.

I received a call from my brother Friday morning. My mother passed away Thursday night. Technically, she is my step-mother, but she is the only mother I have ever known. My natural mother left when I was two years old. My father remarried when I was five.

My reactions to learning this news have been quite unexpected. My mother was mentally ill. For some reason, I became the focus of her illness. I'll not go into the details of those strange years now. If you are curious, I've written about them here; Stopping the World; The First Definition.

You may have to read that entry to understand what I'm going to admit to next. My first reaction was one of relief. I no longer had to fear this person. But there was something else connected to that; the feeling of relief that I did not kill her. She lived to be 76, and died of natural causes, and I never vented my anger towards her. That may seem like a strange confession. Perhaps it is. But, as I look back on my younger years, and the intensity of my rage, it is a major accomplishment to have kept it reined in for all these years. And now I no longer have to be on guard against that rage breaking loose. In other words, in a rather unusual way, I am finally free of her influence over me.

The next emotion was a bit unexpected. A feeling of grief; of deep loss. Not so much for my mother as she was, but of that constant hope of what our relationship might one day become. That hope has now died. And with it, a bit of me has died as well.

Having confronted those initial strong feelings, and accepted them, next came thoughts of what to do. Not so much what I wanted to do, but what the situation called for. This woman was my father's beloved for almost 50 years. I need to honor that. And I need to be there for my brother as he grieves the loss of his mother.

So, tomorrow after the last liturgy, I'll be catching a plane to California. The burial is Monday in the local Episcopal parish. I won't officiate or preach. But I'll be present. I think that will be enough. I'll fly back early Tuesday to prepare for Holy Week in my parish. I ask for your prayers, for the repose of the soul of Pan, and for all those who mourn.

Now, regarding Holy Week at Jake's place...I don't know about you, but I need to step away from the Episcopal/Anglican soap opera for awhile. And, in light of the emotional place events have put me right now, I also need some silence. Be assured that all those matters we think are so important will still be there waiting for us when we return to our normal routine after Easter.

So, what I have in mind is a variation of the tradition of Lectio Divina. The variation I'll be using is very similar to the African/Lambeth Bible Study, with which some of you are most likely familiar.

The format is fairly simple:

I'll introduce a new passage from scripture each day.

We will begin in silence, quieting our minds and our hearts, using centering prayer methods, breathing exercises, the Jesus Prayer, or whatever else helps us become silent, empty, and open to God.

We'll then engage the text, preferably reading it aloud to ourselves, listening for a word or phrase that seems to speak to us at that moment.

We then re-enter the silence, meditating on the word or phrase we have heard, and noting the thoughts or images that it brings forth.

We read the passage a second time, now listening for what God might be saying or showing us in this passage. This is not a time for intellectual pondering, but listening with the heart. How does this passage touch your daily life?

We read the passage a third time, listening for what God might be calling us to do in light of this time of reflection and meditation.

And finally, we return to the silence, resting in God's presence.

I realize that this kind of thing is not for everyone. But even if it seems a bit too "touchy feely" for you, I encourage you to use this as an opportunity to "be still and know that I am God."

Those of you who will be participating are encouraged to share your thoughts and reflections, what you "heard," in the comments. If I am able, I'll be including some of my own responses in each post. I may not be able to do so for the next few days, but I will post at least a passage of scripture for reflection every day.

To facilitate this shift into Holy Week, and help us all set aside other matters, Jake's place will be going "silent" some time tomorrow, meaning all comments will be moderated, and will only appear at the end of each day. Beginning tomorrow, after the posting of the passage for reflection, I ask that you limit your comments to this exercise.

And so, let us begin:

Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation,that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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