Saturday, March 30, 2013

Homily for Holy Saturday 2013

 Holy Saturday, the Saturday of Holy Week, the day between Good Friday and Easter is a day of waiting.  Most of my life has been lived on Holy Saturday.  Good Friday is behind me.  Easter lies ahead.  Now, I wait.
 We strip the altar bare on Maundy Thursday.  On Good Friday, the church looks, barren, forsaken, without its adornments.  In its emptiness, it echoes. 
 During day of Holy Saturday, anticipating Easter, we decorate the holy space--adornments galore.  But, it is “not yet.”  We know how the story ends.  We are eager with anticipation, but Easter has not yet dawned.  We keep this space dark.  We wait for the light of that Easter dawn.  And in our waiting, we experience a longing.
 Holy Saturday is special in the Church year, it is a day set aside to feel and to express our longing for God, for the “more” we have hoped to experience and have not yet experienced.  Like the season of Advent, it is legitimized longing, a validated ache, a lack that is not a wrong.
        Again, our Holy Saturdays can be long.  So, it is nice, therefore, to have that ache validated, that longing legitimized, to acknowledge our lack is not wrong.
 I’m reminded of an expression in Hebrew, bat qol; it mean means echo of a voice, or literally “daughter of a voice.”  We cannot hear God’s Voice directly, but we hear an echo of a voice.  We do not hear God’s Voice directly, but who cannot be grateful for its echo, however faint?
 Anglican theologian, N. T. Wright believes there is a universal longing for God, and we experience it as the echo of God’s voice in four longings:  The longing for justice, of spirituality, of beauty and of relationship.1
 The longing for justice is a Holy Saturday longing and our cry for justice, in the time of injustice, is God’s own cry.  On Friday, we are painfully aware of injustice.  We await the day of Justice to come.  For now, living in the not yet, we long for justice.
 Our longing for spirituality is exemplified in Reynolds Price’s novel Kate Vaiden, Kate has suffered the violent deaths of her parents and is being raised by extended family.  In the novel, Kate writes about her spirituality.  She says,    
Prayer took a big share of my time then.  I’ve said I didn’t enjoy church a lot, that I went with Caroline twice a month when the circuit rider passed.  What I really had was long talks with God, Christ, angels, trees, the Devil, birds, and dogs.  Anything seemed liable to turn sacred on me, and I’d worship it freely till it faded off.3

On those long Holy Saturdays of our lives, we long to hear God’s voice, not just an echo; we long to talk to God--trees and birds and dogs are liable to turn sacred on us; to become sacraments for us--outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace.  We look forward to the grace.  For now, we relish the visible sign of its coming.
        There is also the echo of God’s Voice in beauty.  From the church’s beginnings, we saw beauty as a window to God.  We built the most beautiful places of worship we could imagine.  We enter into this sacred space with its elegant simplicity, and rich visual symbolism.  The worship conducted in this space, the liturgy employed and the ritual performed, seeks to worship God in the beauty of holiness.  With its seasonal rhythms, vestments and song, flowers and frontals and language and stillnesses.
 In our architecture and in our use of art, in our liturgy and sacred music--we are engaged in the holy work of reflecting the beauty of God.  As Gerard Manley Hopkins expressed this calling:  “Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God,  beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.”4  Or, in the words of George Herbert: “Wherefore with my utmost art I will sing thee, and the cream of all my heart I will bring thee”.5   As Albert Camus put it so memorably (speaking of this longing we have for both justice on the one hand and beauty on the other): “In this world there is beauty and there are the humiliated, and we must strive, hard as it is, not to be unfaithful, either to the one or the other.”  On Holy Saturdays, we strive, not to be unfaithful; either to one or the other.
 And there is relationship as an echo of God’s Voice.  We were made to live in communion and community, with God and with one another.  The first creation story says that when God formed us in the divine image God formed us male and female, which reminds us that the divine partakes equally of male and female, and it also suggests that we were made to live in communion with one another, in deep, abiding relationships.  So marriage, and friendship, and community are gifts of God without which life cannot be as full or rich as God intends.  Relationships cannot cure all our ills and all our incompleteness.  As Wendell Berry says: “Some wishes cannot succeed; some victories cannot be won; some loneliness is incorrigible.”7 But being in relationship with each other is part of God’s intended goodness to us.  
 Justice, spirituality, beauty, relationships: they are windows we can peep through and see Easter on the other side, they are echos of the divine Voice.
 But they are not God; they are only echos.  Without the transcendent dimension justice can become fanaticism, spirituality a solipsism, the self as object of worship, beauty a false god, and relationships idolatry.  They are good, but they are not God.
 So we long for something more, not an echo of a Voice, but the Voice itself.  And thus, we await Easter.
 We are thankful for the echo, but we long to shout the Easter proclamation--do I dare speak it now, must I wait. We banish the proclamation during Lent.  No, to say it now, while it is still Saturday, while we live in the “not yet” would not be right--the words would ring hollow.  No, to shout the Easter proclamation, we must wait and live with our longings.  We say in our hearts “be patient” “it won’t be long now” And, we wait.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Some say "Good Friday" is from "God's Friday" (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called "Long Friday" by the Anglo-Saxons.

From the late 13th century, however, good was used in the Middle English sense of "holy," (especially holy days or seasons observed by the church).  The word "good" was also applied to Christmas and Shrove Tuesday.

Therefore, "Good Friday" = "Holy Friday" or the Friday of Holy Week.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the Christian feast, or holy day, falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the gospels. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday.
The date is always between 19 March and 22 April inclusive, but these dates fall on different days depending on whether the Gregorian or Julian calendar is used liturgically. Eastern churches generally use the Julian calendar, and so celebrate this feast throughout the 21st century between 1 April and 5 May in the more commonly used Gregorian calendar. 
The liturgy held on the evening of Maundy Thursday initiates the Easter Triduum, the period which commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ; this period includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ends on the evening of Easter. 
The service of worship is normally celebrated in the evening, when Friday begins according to Jewish tradition, as the Last Supper was held on feast of Passover.
The English word “Maundy” in that name for the day is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon often sung during the "Mandatum" ceremony of the washing of the feet.
However, some theorize that the English name "Maundy Thursday" arose from "maundsor baskets" or "maundy purses" of alms which the king of England distributed to certain poor at Whitehall before attending Mass on that day. Thus, "maund" is connected to the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg.  Some argue that, if the name was derived from the Latin mandatum, we would call the day Mandy Thursday, or Mandate Thursday, or Mandatum Thursday; and that the term "Maundy" comes from the Latin mendicare, Old French mendier, and English maund, which as a verb means to beg and as a noun refers to a small basket held out by maunders as they maunded.