I’ve been reading fairly comprehensively about the Catholic church and faith recently, an admission which alone is sufficient to garner for me yet one more chorus of “Heretic!” from the cyber-peanut gallery. I find myself quite surprised at the amount of things I didn’t know, as well as the amount of things I half-knew or had flat-out wrong. Fascinating material.
And relevant material for Holy Week. The majority of Protestant churches are rightfully renowned for the unattractiveness of their buildings (which they dammit-to-hell do not consider holy, for the bleak, banal improv skit (even when scripted by the deacons’ helpful handouts) they call a worship service, and the self-conscious, aimed-at-and-designed-to-impress-their-fellow-man prayers they lift to the Ancient of Days, Whom they seem to forget really is listening and watching.
I’ve said it for many years — I love ritual, order, and pomp. It was no accident that I joined the U.S. Marine Corps (a quasi-religion if ever a military band was such a thing) instead of the “Be All You Can Be” or “Aim High” groups. The Protestants can squeal like wieners on a barbecue if they want, but if they’re honest, they have to admit that the almost 2,000 year-old traditions and sacred-rootedness of the Catholic church inculcates a familial sense of history and tradition that none of the 30,000+ Protestant denominations (at least 44 Reformed sects in the USA alone, and some of them no older than the 1970s!) even comes close to possessing.
I’ve been following the Liturgy of the Hours this week, and I my heart has been warmed and quieted by the readings and the meditations and the prayers. As the shadows lengthen tonight on this Maundy Thursday, my thoughts turn to the One Who stood among His enemies in Gethsemane as His friends ran like cowards into the night. My heart, in its secret meditations, agonizes over the shaming and the battering He endured, all alone, all alone, answering not in kind, all alone, accused falsely and mocked openly, all alone.
I am not alone tonight. I am with the woman I love: my beautiful, clement, modest wife. A glance at her reminds me that she is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, and this takes my mind back to Eden and our Father’s generous wounding of Adam, pulling out a length of bone and closing up the divine divot, forming our first earthly mother from this stick of enmarrowed calcium and presenting her to our first earthly father, and how he took her and loved her and named her. And then I think forward to that Roman spear, in the hands of a man under orders, and how it opened the side of the Firstborn Son among many, and how the blood and the water rained down, and how that same murdered Man prays for me — for me! — even now. The thought makes my soul sob, and I feel the wrack tonight, and praise Christ for the tender nerve endings of the spirit.
Let us be quiet tonight, friends. Let us think of all that we’ve done in rebellion, and of all that He has put right for us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end, amen.