Friday, 2 April 2010

It's probably about 15 years since I was in church for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, and then they would have been very different.

This is all feeling rather new, at the same time as being rather familiar.

I had been feeling nervous about foot washing last night. I was feeling quite strange about it, not wanting anyone to wash my feet... not because I'm ticklish or embarrassed about my feet, particularly, but because it feels like I should be washing someone else's feet, not the other way around. It feels backwards.

But that's a false dichotomy. Gifts need recipients... we can each give and receive, we can each love and be loved.

How can I relate to the Cross if I can't even let someone else wash my feet? How can I accept that ultimate gift from God if I can't accept Gentle Vicar kneeling with pitcher and towel?

So the time came, and I went with the others and had my feet washed, and it was fine. It still felt backwards, but it was fine.

I loved the silent vigil afterward. So often for me, singing is the way to become aware of God's presence. Silence can be awkward... am I supposed to say something? Do something? Short silences in the liturgy make me feel nervous. They always seem either too long, or not long enough. I get stuck in a cycle of worrying about whether I'm supposed to be ready for the next bit, whether I've forgotten someone, whether I might be doing it wrong. In chant or song I often lose that, lose track of worrying about myself, because my whole self is in the song, takes on the song, becomes the song.

The longer silence in darkness was more like singing. My mind was not exactly quiet. I sat there, sometimes with other people and sometimes not, turning over various problems, asking God to be present to various people in various situations. How can I explain? I don't believe that God is ever not with us. I don't believe God could be there in the chapel of repose last night but not also with me now as I sit in front of my computer. But my perception was different, changed, maybe by the silence and darkness, maybe by the preceding liturgy, and God seemed very present.

I didn't really want to leave.

For this morning's Gospel reading we had a sort of dramatized version, with a narrator and different people taking different spoken parts. I loved that our reader, who is female, was reading the part of Christ. I don't know if anyone else noticed.

I did find it all rather short. I'm not sure if Nearest Church doesn't do the entire liturgy or if I'm still accustomed to the longer services in Judaism, but it seems odd to be out by early afternoon. What am I to do with the rest of the day? It doesn't seem right to treat it as a normal day, getting on with bits and pieces of work and study, or to spend time catching up on housework. It doesn't seem right to treat it as a usual day off, relaxing and resting and reading fiction or cooking fancy food. This day feels as if it should be like Yom Kippur, no participation in any of the 39 melachot, no eating, drinking, washing, wearing leather (a luxury), hours and hours and hours of liturgy. Instead I am at something of a loose end.

And yet there are no "normal" days, just as there is no "ordinary" time... if God is with me at church but also out in the world, God is with me when I pray but also when I go about my work, which is even another sort of prayer, if you will. But I am a creature of liturgy, of habit, of susceptibility to ritual, and setting aside times and places to focus on God helps to increase my awareness of God the rest of the time and in the rest of the places. This day is a set aside time.

So I will go for a walk, I think, and I will go back to Nearest Church and sit in silence a while, again.

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