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A Singular Arc of Solidarity

I understand the sequential logic – final meal, betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection. It follows a perfectly sensible order laid out in a ritual pattern over three days, each punctuated with distinct, poignant moments.

I understand all this but I don’t always experience Holy Week that way. I often find the moments bleeding into each other, I suppose quite literally. The chronology sometimes seems out of whack to me as I feel the final meal digesting quite early in the week, the suffering on a day when feet should be washed, and I see an odd light lingering about the old rugged cross.cross_light

I had similar trouble with distinct chronological moments during my mother’s final illness and her death last year. Next week will mark the first anniversary. Actually, in “liturgical time,” this week is that milestone, since she died during Holy Week.

I thought I could hear the music that would be played at her funeral before it was chosen, while she was still ill in the hospital. I’m nearly sure she laughed and teased me about Judah, the Australian Shepherd dog, while she was barely conscious in hospice care. I could see the shadow of death lengthen across her smile weeks before, but didn’t realize this until much later.

Perhaps most of us live with blurry edges around temporal sequences. I wonder if most of us just make up neat and tidy progressions to make it easier to tell others about what’s happening in our lives and in the world. I wonder if distinct moments in time are simply fictions, or at least their distinctness from all other moments probably is, a grand and pervasive illusion.

I find such queer uncertainty peculiar, yes, but not disconcerting – at least not in Holy Week. The oddities of these particular days trace but one, singular arc of divine solidarity. I mean, the Immanuel we celebrated at Christmas – “God with us” – really is, not occasionally or sequentially or intermittently but always and all the way down, as it were, with us.

That’s what I have trouble with. I have trouble accepting that the God who creates me also chooses to dwell in deep solidarity with me – in every respect, at every moment, under every condition, and for a future beyond my imagining…which may well have already happened.

I do have trouble accepting this, yet the more I do the less willing I am to put up with a world of violence and injustice and speech riddled with hate; to tolerate any city where anyone could be hungry or lonely or afraid; to countenance a neighborhood street where an old woman is too terrified to walk outside, or a dog runs loose and thirsty and panicked, or a child begs to play and no one listens.

I have trouble plunging full-hearted into the Triduum Sacrum – the three sacred days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. I am afraid of what that singular arc will compel me to do and to be. I’m afraid I will no longer care about time and what it costs; afraid that I will let go of the future that has already happened so long ago; afraid that I will simply give myself over to a world in pain, throw myself into it with the wild abandon of trust, loving and hoping it toward the better.

This, surely, was the simultaneous terror and resolve of Jesus.

Lately, I have been appreciating how M. Shawn Copeland reflects on such things, and here, how she brings these three days into a singular focus of unraveling grace:

A Christian praxis of solidarity denotes the humble and complete orientation of ourselves before the lynched Jesus, whose shadow falls across the table of our sacramental meal. In his raised body, a compassionate God interrupts the structures of death and sin, of violation and oppression. A divine praxis of solidarity sets the dynamics of love against the dynamics of domination – recreating and regenerating the world, offering us a new way of being in relation to God, to others, to self.

I can detect no sensible sequence in her eloquence, no logical passing of one distinct moment to the next. I read only about such chronologies interrupted by the Presence, the One-With-Us, forever and not yet but still now and then, always.

I care about so much that actually matters very little. So each year I try to pause over the slivers and slices, the tiny glimpses that are so easily passed by and over, as if they could not possibly matter – the fragrance filling the room; the drop of a tear on the top of a foot; the brush of a hand against another reaching for bread; a smudge of wine on the lips, a brushing of vinegar; aromatic spices prepared by fingers shaking with grief; streaks of rosy sunlight at dawn.

bread_wineWe need not braid such moments together, as if to construct something useful from fragments, something at last recognizable. The entire arc of solidarity resides in each moment, resides all the way down and rising up always as a singular offering: the Divine Companion.

Comments

  1. Silvana Krogsrud says:

    Perhaps it is easier to follow the sequential logic of the three holy days as you described it in your opening sentence. I struggle with the “Cross.” For me the cross represents a paradox: an innocent man violently killed, and presumably this violent act was necessary to save humanity. I’m so conflicted about that. I can’t deal with the traditional theologies of the cross any longer. I feel they need to be disrupted/deconstructed. The violent cross – is it the cross of justice or injustice? We have crucified over 6 million Jews, we have crucified black people, we have crucified transgender individual, we have crucified men and women because they were different, and the list goes on. How do feminist, womanist or queer theologians see the cross? Or how about the poor and the oppressed? I cannot even see myself in a celibate/asexual white male. Karl Barth said something like this: “We celebrate the risen Christ and not the empty tomb.” This is not good enough for me.

  2. Peter Carlson says:

    Thank you, as always, Jay, for this gift.

    I think it is probably in our nature to try to curate our moments in time. I don’t find a danger in that, particularly, unless it is the danger of feeling that our times don’t matter UNLESS they are curated, are “made sense of.” I can’t tell you how many times a memory has popped, unbidden, into my mind of some completely disconnected and seemingly unimportant moment in my past. My usual response is to think, “Where the hell did that come from?” I’m still giving myself permission to ask that, but you have given me further permission not to insist on it “making sense” in the gallery of my mind, but to allow it simply to be a moment in which, surely, G-d was present “all the way down and rising up.”

    • Ah! Peter! “Curate our moments in time….” I love that. Yes. I think I probably couldn’t live my life with curating the hell out of my moments in time — probably literally, or rather, begging God to curate the hell out of them. But it’s the “making sense” part, I think, where I stumble. Blessings on you dear one…for our uncurated curable selves….

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