When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
There’s too much good stuff out there already. So, I’m offering some of my favorite tidbits:
In a church that’s filled with people who are being reduced in a hundred different ways—by illness, death, grief, betrayal, depression and economic reversal, whose insurance has lapsed and whose dreams have been foreclosed—Holy Week teaches us all a lesson in losing. We are not losers, but we have been reduced, some of us to what feels like our touchstone. On Maundy Thursday we discover that even when everything has been taken away, something remains.
My South African friend Peter Storey once remarked that “America is the only country where more Christians go to church on Mother’s Day than Good Friday.” It is a sobering thought. The message of Easter, as Paul Tillich said in a sermon, is that the Messiah was “born in a grave.” Those who skip Thursday and Friday but show up on Easter Sunday are missing the essential truth of the Passion. Thus they also bypass the profound grief that attends Jesus’ death. But there’s more to it than that. They have also missed one of Jesus’ most important lessons before dying. During Holy Week Jesus teaches the art of losing.
In the first three stanzas of her poem “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop ruminates on life’s reductions:
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
From Mama:Monk, on that desolate, God-forsaken garden, a poem that will slay you. Descending Theology: The Garden, by Mary Karr:
We know he was a man because, once doomed,
he begged for reprieve. See him
grieving on his rock under olive trees,
his companions asleep
on the hard ground around him
wrapped in old hides.
Not one stayed awake as he’d asked.
That went through him like a sword.
He wished with all his being to stay
but gave up
bargaining at the sky. He knew
it was all mercy anyhow,
unearned as breath. The Father couldn’t intervene,
though that gaze was never
not rapt, a mantle around him. This
was our doing, our death.
The dark prince had poured the vial of poison
into the betrayer’s ear,
and it was done. Around the oasis where Jesus wept,
the cracked earth radiated out for miles.
In the green center, Jesus prayed for the pardon
of Judas, who was approaching
with soldiers, glancing up–as Christ was–into
the punctured sky till his neck bones
ached. Here is his tear-riven face come
to press a kiss on his brother.
-Sinners Welcome, HarperCollins, 2006
Finally, one of my favorite hymns, the context of which is slightly off, but the words seem appropriate.
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee.
[Image from here.]