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March 25, 2013

Holy Week started yesterday.  I sat in our small chapel and waved palms with my enthusiastic 6 year old.    I sang triumphant songs that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey.  As the service progressed, the mood became more solemn as we looked at the week that lay ahead of us.  For Jesus, it was a long, hard week.  Betrayal by those who loved him, loneliness, asking God if maybe there wasn’t another way, in addition to the physical pain he went through.  We ended the service with one of my favorite hymns ever…Ah, Holy Jesus.

Who was the guilty?  Who brought this upon thee?

Alas, my treason, Jesus hath undone thee.

Twas, I Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;

I crucified thee.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,

I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee.

Think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,

not my deserving.

I’ve been thinking the past few weeks how I would acknowledge Holy Week this week.  For several years, awhile back, my response to Holy Week was a visceral one.  I was moved, emotionally, and the passion of the week whirled me away.  However, in recent years, I haven’t been able to rely on an emotional response to carry me through Holy Week.  Instead, I’ve needed to plan a little more.  I’ve needed to help create space for God to enter into.  It’s strange saying I feel far away from God during Holy Week, but it is during Holy Week, that I feel God’s absence most acutely.

And I wonder.  When did Holy Week become all about me?  When did it become about my feelings, my over-identification with Christ’s sufferings?  Because really, I could never understand what Christ went through.  Never.  To think I could seems a bit pompous and a bit too self-centered.  Holy Week is not about me.  It’s not.  It’s not about my feelings or my thoughts or my distance or exhaustion or anything else I may think it’s about.  I am not the center of the universe.  I am not.

Holy Week is about God’s love.  All of Lent, we’ve been reminded about God’s love for us.  Over and over Jesus demonstrated all he did was all about love.  His teachings were about love.  His miracles were performed out of love.  His parables were about love.  All we can do is respond to that love that is offered to us.

For Lent, as I have done for the past two years, I am reading Joan Chittister’s Breath of the Soul.  On this, my third walk through her mediations on prayer, I feel like I may finally be starting to get the words she says.  Over and over, Chittister reminds me that a relationship with God is not a self-help technique.  The goal of the relationship isn’t really for me to become a better person.  It’s not about having a shorter list of things to confess on those nights I remember to do my evening prayers.  It’s not about patting myself on the back and finally feeling more Christ-like.  A relationship of any kind, whether it’s with my husband, my children, my friends, my family, or with God, is not about me.   A relationship with God, accepting God’s love and responding to it, is all about God and others.  Chittister addresses this over and over and over as she talks about how we pray and our views on prayer.  This morning, I read this:

To use religion or prayer or contemplation of the search for God as an excuse for ignoring the needs of the world is blasphemy.  It denies the very God it purports to teach.  It practices the idolatry of self and calls it union with God.  It makes immersion in prayer more important than the fruits of prayer. (bold italics are mine).

As I fumble through Holy Week again this year, I am remembering Chittister’s wisdom.  As I make decisions about how I will demonstrate my gratitude and love for God, I am keeping in mind that Holy Week is not about me.  Again from Chittister:

Prayer is meant to bring us to see the world as God sees the world.  It is meant to expand our vision, not trap us in the world that is only ourselves.

I will spend more time in prayer this week, trying to practice morning, midday, and evening prayer.  I will read a bit more poetry, a little Madeleine L’Engle, a little Rilke, a little Wendell Berry, to reflect more on Christ’s sacrifice.  I will participate in a service project on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter).  I will celebrate a Christian Passover with my family in honor of God’s continued presence throughout thousands of years.  I will attend a Good Friday service, not at my church, but a different church, one that recognizes Good Friday with music, not with lots of words.  What words can adequately express Good Friday and God’s sacrifice?  Only music can possibly come close for me.

It will be a week spent being intentional, despite the crazy list of errands I am trying to pack in just today alone, that is sitting right next to my keyboard.  I pray that God will show me how to love God more and how to demonstrate that love in my actions to all those I meet, within the walls of my house and without.

Holy Week is all about love.  It’s not about me.  Christ is the center.

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