Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Enter into the Extraordinary!

Take a step out of the ordinary this week… 
and enter into the extraordinary celebration of the Triduum!

As those who have made this journey will tell you, the Easter Triduum is unlike any other moment in the Church’s liturgical calendar.  To enter into this singular event is to step out of chronological time and enter into kairos time, into a kind of sacred space or holy ground where nothing – no song or gesture or prayer – feels quite the same.  Triduum ("three days") is total immersion into the Passion, Death, and Rising of Jesus.

Come, join us at the table on Holy Thursday evening for the Feast of the Lord’s Supper, as feet are washed and Eucharist is blessed, broken, and shared, then borne in procession for Adoration...

Follow in Jesus’s steps on the Way of the Cross on Friday afternoon, as we pray and absorb the lessons of a moving set of Stations, then venerate the Wood of the Cross in remembrance during the most special Communion service of the year…  Friday evening, meditate on the Seven Last Words of Christ during the ecumenical service hosted by Peace Lutheran Church, which brings insights from Christian leaders throughout Mill Valley together under one roof…

Witness the Light of Christ as it slowly fills our church on Holy Saturday evening... The Word of God recalls to mind our own salvation history from Genesis to Romans…  And we celebrate with exuberance the full participation of our catechumens at Eucharist with us, the culmination of their own journey through Baptism and the Cross to the joy of new birth…

Lend your joyful voice to our communal celebration of Jesus's Resurrection on Easter Sunday as the church is filled with new light and we become infused with a deep knowledge of God's enduring and abiding love...  and rejoice!

Come, enter the Triduum… Pray with us, and let that prayer transform you, allowing you to embrace the deepest sorrows of the Passion as well as the most exalted joys of His Rising.

Enter into the Extraordinary ~ Join us for the Triduum!
(For specific times and locations for all of the above, click here.)

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Thinking about Passover

For our Jewish neighbors, Passover begins this week…  A new telling of the story of the Exodus (written for The New American Hagaddah, by Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander) reminds us that, in celebrating the Passover, “In every generation, a person is obligated to view himself as if he were the one who went out of Egypt.”  How do we get our minds in that place, that mindset where Jesus may have been as he celebrated his Last Supper with the disciples?  Perhaps, New Yorker writer Sasha Weiss suggests, through poetry and prayer and the poetry of prayer, beginning like this:

Sanctify and Wash
And tell

Be Washed
And Bless
The Poor Man’s Bread

And Set Down to Eat

Hide It
And Bless

Praise It
Be pleased

To read Weiss’s article about The New American Haggadah, click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, April 13, 2014: It must come to pass in this way...

This Sunday, we hear Matthew’s version of Jesus’s Passion.  What makes this version different from the others?  Well, first, Jesus seems to be in control of what is happening, from beginning to end, going forth resolutely to meet all he is to meet.  Nothing takes him by surprise; nothing startles him, because he maintains throughout a strong communion with God, into which nothing else can intrude.  Even when he calls out, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?, Jesus is likely praying the whole of Psalm 22 on the cross, a psalm that is ultimately about giving praise to God.  Like the Suffering Servant in our reading from Isaiah, Jesus is in profound relationship with the Father; the Lord God is [his] help.  Day after day, Jesus never loses sight of God’s plan, of the larger purpose of his mission.  Are we always so careful about listening to God, morning after morning, and waiting for God to reveal himself?  Jesus is, even in the terrifying reality of his last moments.  He does not rebel, does not turn back.

The other players in this scenario are not so together.  The disciples, for their part, want to do the right thing, but they can’t.  They can’t stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Judas betrays Jesus.  Peter denies Jesus three times, in spite of himself.  And don’t we find ourselves in that same predicament?  Isn’t it hard for us to follow through on our intentions in relationship with our Lord? 

Even those who call Jesus’ blood down upon themselves don’t realize they are proclaiming a blessing.  Let his blood be upon ourselves and upon our children, they say.  In other words, they accept the guilt that Jesus’s blood be on them, yet in so doing they also open a door to God’s plan, which is salvation and infinite love for all.  Do we always realize that Jesus took our sins to the cross?  Do we realize the blessing he represents in our lives?  Jesus’s purpose was never to destroy, but to build up, to give life, and—obedient to the point of death, as Paul tells the Philippians – Jesus pushes the story through to the end so that that can take place.  As the veil of the sanctuary is torn in two and the earth quakes, Jesus’s purpose is achieved, and access to God is made available to all people.  This is the message of his Passion:  that Jesus’s suffering made God accessible to humankind in all God’s infinite compassion and love… a love for all, made possible by the steadfast progression of Jesus to his human death on the cross, and, ultimately, his resurrection.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Lazarus Laughed

Lazarus Laughed

In 1925, the American playwright Eugene O’Neill published a play that is rarely staged, though its subject is awe-inspiring.  Lazarus Laughed is a fictionalized account of the life of the man Lazarus after he has been raised from the dead, his vision shifted by four days in the tomb, a story of his joys and of the trials he faces, right up to his (imagined) death at the hands of Tiberius.  Its title, O’Neill said, was a counterpoint to Jesus’s reaction upon being invited to see where Lazarus has been lain in the tomb: whereas, John tells us, “Jesus wept” (11:35), Lazarus laughs in celebration of the Good News.  Later, Lazarus’s message before a hostile crowd threatening to kill him at the very moment Jesus himself is being crucified is a powerful one:

You laugh, he says, but your laughter is guilty!  It laughs a hyena laughter, spotted, howling its hungry fear of life!  That day I returned did I not tell you your fear was no more, that there is no death?  You believed then—for a moment!  You laughed—discordantly, hoarsely, but with a groping toward joy.  What!  Have you so soon forgotten, that now your laughter curses life again as of old?  (He pauses—then sadly)  That is your tragedy!  You forget!  You forget the God in you!  You wish to forget!  Remembrance would imply the high duty to live as a son of God—generously!—with love!—with pride!—with laughter!  […] Throw your gaze upward!  To Eternal Life!  To the fearless and deathless!  The everlasting!  To the stars!

Raised in the Catholic Church, Eugene O’Neill himself struggled greatly with doubt throughout his life.  One senses in this passage (and others like it in the play) the deep-seated desire of a man who seeks the eternal, the God in himself as well as the God in those around him.  O'Neill's Lazarus enjoins us not to forget the fundamental message of Jesus, and the revelation of God's love that fills our lives as Jesus continues to dwell in us.  

We too are called to throw our own gaze upward and live generously, 
with love and laughter, confident in the eternal life to come!

Quote source:  Eugene O'Neill, Complete Plays, 1920-1931, New York:  Library of America (1988), page 555.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, April 6, 2014: Your brother will rise...

We are not meant to live in fear or dread of death.

Our three readings this Sunday focus on God’s promise:  the promise of everlasting life at the end of our Christian journey on this earth.  Our central text, from John's Gospel, is the story of the raising of Lazarus, dead four days in the tomb.  Except for Jesus, every character in the story is limited by his or her expectations; they cannot yet fully see Jesus for who he is, though they have come quite far along their journey.  They are in need of internal light – not an exterior source shedding light on their misunderstanding, but a light from within, so that they can see even where there is darkness.  In the story of Lazarus, Jesus moves them all along, to a point where at last they have an inkling of who he truly is and what he has come to accomplish.  Martha, for example, knows that God will listen and grant whatever Jesus requests (though she does not yet see Jesus as God).  Jesus’s invocation, Untie him, is not simply a literal request:  untie him, Jesus is saying, from the bonds your limited faith has put him in!  Let him be raised, that you might see, and believe!  The irony, of course, is that Jesus is on the path to his own death even as he raises his friend Lazarus from the tomb.  Yet I AM the Resurrection and the Life, he tells Martha, and soon we will see him rise himself.

The key, here, is holding onto God’s promise.  In our reading from Ezekiel, the people of Israel are slaves in a foreign land, and their witness to God’s kingdom has been torn apart.  They are without hope.  Here, only God has the power to raise this nation from the dead, opening their (metaphorical) graves so that they might restore the kingdom.  Out of the depths, the psalmist cries out in De Profundis (Psalm 130).  Lamenting, the psalmist recognizes his sinfulness, yet trusts in God’s great capacity to save; faith is the very reason he has for praying from those depths.

And so, as Paul indicates to the Romans, Lazarus’s second death should not be cause for concern, as now they know, thanks to the dying and rising of Jesus, that there is something more to hope for:  permanent resurrection of the dead, all the dead, and the promise of eternal life.  If you allow the Spirit of Christ to enter you, to dwell in you, you will be – as you are called in baptism to be – God-centered and other-centered.  Our whole life from baptism is an ongoing journey of transformation, that sacrament being the very beginning of a journey of living with the Spirit of Christ alive in us.  It will lead us to, take us to, death, but it will culminate in life in our mortal bodies, and our own eternal dwelling with Jesus forever.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.

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