Pathways through Lent

This is the story of my resurrection

by  Jocelyn Tichenor

Holy Saturday

Job 19:21-27a Psalms 27, 88, 95 Hebrews 4:1-16 Romans 8:1-11

It all started September 27, 1979, the day I was born. I was born to two loving parents. They knew there would be challenges for the three of us to go through, but nothing could prepare them for the shock we all were about to receive.

Mom took me to the doctors for a check-up at eighteen months. At that point, I was not walking. The doctor evaluated the way I grasped objects, how my eyes followed them and my coordination. My parents were pleased at how well I had completed the tasks set before me. The doctor told my parents that I had cerebral palsy.

This was quite a time of sadness for my parents, and they did not know what to expect in terms of my development. To assist me in making up for lost time, I went to physical, occupational and speech therapies at various times.

At therapy I was requested to complete difficult tasks, such as buttoning a shirt, walking on a balance beam and trying to speak so that people could understand me. I really struggled in the early days to have people understand me and even today some people think I originate from a European Country!

Cerebral palsy, like all difficulties, has its good as well as its undesirable aspects. On the good side, I have met people that I might not have otherwise met and learned self-motivation and perseverance. Accomplishments, though they may be small, are always appreciated a lot more because of the tremendous amounts of energy necessary to complete a task.

On the other side, because of my slow rate of speech, people often commented that I was mentally impaired. That was a major blow to me because I had really struggled to speak well and articulately. And when activities looked easy to complete, they always found a sneaky way of turning in to being almost impossible, such as cutting a juicy piece of steak.

As we prepare for this special season, I am reminded of the suffering that Jesus went through when he was crucified on the cross. Gloriously three days later, he was resurrected. My life story and yours can be likened to that of Jesus. Each one of us has a Good Friday in our life, a day we discovered something was not the way we wanted it to be. For me it was finding out that I had cerebral palsy. Yes, there was a time of mourning and asking the all too popular question, “Why me?” but there was the promised resurrection which is the Easter for all of us. For me, it was discovering the things I excelled at, such as working with people and speaking publicly. We try to mimic the way Jesus led His life, the successes and failures He went through to make Him a stronger person. Discovering our resurrection means going through the ups and downs as Jesus did when He was here on earth.

The Resurrection Mural from the Chora Church in Constantinople (Photo by M. Angell)
Uncategorized

Stations of the Cross, Station VI, Veronica’s Doorway

by Mary Raether

Good Friday

Genesis 22:1-14 Psalms 22, 40, 54, 95 1 Peter 1:10-20 John 13:36-38, 19:38-42

When I reflect on the Holy Land trip, I realize my reaction to events that took place two thousand years ago became quite personal. As we walked the twelve sites the Church recognizes as the “Stations of the Cross,” most of us carried a large wooden cross for a segment, the history of each stop was explained, and liturgies and prayers were recited.

At Station VI, a woman wiped Jesus’ face. He was bloody, dirty, full of sweat, and someone he had never met darted past the guards and wiped his face. This may not sound like an act of bravery, and the incident may not have happened, but think of the message. The trial, the lashing, the walk, the crucifixion, and the site where crosses were jammed into cracks on the rim of a former stone quarry high above the city were tactics used by the Romans to terrorize the community.

Our leader pointed out that not one of us, including him, would have been among the followers that day. I’ve always known that I would never have been a participant in that walk. But if a dedicated and articulate Episcopal Priest, former Dean of St. George’s College, and respected archeologist wouldn’t have been there either, how could I feel guilty? And, Jesus’ later words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), were meant for me too and not just for the representatives of Rome and their collaborators.

The Crucifix of San Damiano Italy (St. Francis' Crucifix)
The Crucifix of San Damiano Italy (St. Francis' Crucifix)
Pathways through Lent

Your Last Meal

Maundy Thursday

Jeremiah 20:7-11  Psalms 102, 142, 143 1 Cor 10:14-17; 11:27-32   John 13:1-17, 31b-35

The memory of a business dinner I attended many years ago remains uniquely thought-provoking. That evening, one person in our group at the restaurant was unusually indecisive, asking the server to describe each dish in great detail, inquiring about countless substitutions, and pausing for what seemed an interminable period of time as she contemplated her order.

I could sense the impatience and growing frustration of the others at the table. They wanted to get on with the dinner, wrap up the evening, and get home at the end of a long day. Our indecisive colleague continued to keep the rest of us⎯and our busy server⎯waiting, oblivious to the tension that was building. Finally, one of my exasperated colleagues exclaimed, “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, just order something! You’re acting as if this is your final meal!” Our colleague good-naturedly laughed at herself, apologized, and hastily placed her order.

Since that night, I’ve sometimes wondered: Do I fully embrace each day as if I am living my final hours and having my last meal? After all, any meal could be my last.

On Maundy Thursday, we observe the evening when Jesus had both the benefit and burden of knowing that He was having His last meal on Earth and that His mortal life would soon end. Unlike Christ, we do not have the benefit of knowing when our mortal lives will end. His Resurrection, however, secured for us the gift of everlasting life⎯and it is a gift that stills the disquiet of not knowing when that moment will arrive.

Byzantine Mosaic of Jesus washing the disciples feet at the Last Supper. (Image from Wikiimedia Commons)
Pathways through Lent

God’s Kiss

by Alma Paty

Wednesday in Holy Week

Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17 Psalms 55, 74 Philippians 4:1-13 John 12:27-36

A couple of years ago, Spencer Rice spoke movingly about the mystic confluence of each of our births. He told the legend that babies in the womb are given all the secrets of the Universe by God. But, just before they are born, God whispers “Shhh. Don’t tell” and plants a kiss on his finger and places it just under our nose – at the indentation above our lips. That afternoon, I told my children that we all have “God’s Kiss” just above our lips.

Little did I know that this story had a profound impact, as I learned many months later…

Our then-eight-year-old son, Clarke, shared a wonderful relationship with his Aunt Sarah, my father’s elderly sister for whom I was medical guardian. Aunt Sarah lived nearby and we would visit her often. For her ninetieth birthday in February, Clarke and Aunt Sarah sat in the back seat on the way to her favorite Middleburg restaurant. They carried on a lively conversation that can happen only between a lively eight-year-old boy and a ninety-year-old who had led a “lively” life…

When she blew out the candle, Clarke asked about her wish, and without missing a beat she replied, “I wish I hadn’t lived until I was ninety.” Although Clarke was surprised that she hadn’t wished for a toy, perhaps he realized – as we all did — that she was just tired. Tired of being old. Tired of being less mobile. Tired. Just tired.

Two months later, she became gravely ill and we took Clarke to see her at hospice. He saw her in a “deep sleep,” her faced deeply lined but beautiful still. She passed away soon thereafter and he participated in her memorial service. Then our lives went back to a hectic sort of normal, with a newborn baby brother, camp and moving out of our house for an extensive renovation.

So it happened, one hectic fall morning, as we were driving to school, that Clarke piped up out of the back seat:

“Mom?”

“Yes, Clarke?”

“I knew Aunt Sarah was dying.”

“What???”

“I knew Aunt Sarah was dying.”

“Uh, how did you know?”

“She was losing her kiss.”

“Whaaaaat????”

“She was losing her kiss.”

“What kiss are you talking about?”

“You know, the kiss God gives us right before we are born.”

"Deep Breath" a painting by Melanie Weidner "the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being." - Gen: 2:7
Pathways through Lent

Eucharist and Passover

by Sara McGanity

Tuesday in Holy Week

Jewish Passover

Jeremiah 15:10-21 Psalms 6, 94 Philippians 3:15-21 John 12:20-26

As Christians, we’re given a great gift: Holy Eucharist. The ability to actively participate in the Great Thanksgiving is an awesome thing. With such a gift comes great responsibility, and oftentimes, that responsibility is lost in translation: the rituals become routine and the words become memorized. Whether it’s singing the Sanctus, proclaiming the mystery of faith, or praying the Lord’s Prayer, we recite these excerpts – oftentimes without aid from the program. There’s a calming rhythm and peace that comes from knowing the words by heart, however, we must not forget the true meaning and power behind them.

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

Therefore let us keep the feast.

It took many years for me to (re)realize the connection between the words listed above and the Passover story from the Old Testament. When you dissect the words and get at the heart of the message, it’s truly powerful! We are given life, and are ‘passed over’ because Christ sacrificed himself for us. It’s quite humbling when it’s put into perspective – as it should be.

Keeping that in mind, don’t let the words become routine. Instead, may they stay ever-fresh in your mind and heart, so each time you recite them, their power renews you and encourages you to forever keep the feast.

Institution of the Eucharist Illumination from Ottheinrich Folio (Wikimedia)
Pathways through Lent

Passover and Holy Week

by Kathryn Pharr

Monday in Holy Week

Jeremiah 12:1-16 Psalms 51, 69:1-23 Philippians 3:1-14 John 12:9-19

The weeks of preparation are complete. The house has been cleaned from top to bottom; everything is now in its proper place. Eager faces smile at each other from across the table as the first cup of wine is poured. The ritual, the story, begins again as it has every year for centuries. It is the story of the Exodus, the struggle and hope of the Jews for freedom. With cries of, “Next year in Jerusalem,” it is a joyous and reflective evening. Tonight is the beginning of Pesach, Passover.

The parallels of Passover and Easter are strong. Both are bittersweet stories of trial and struggles that end in hope. Both religions arduously prepare for these holy days. In our scripture, Jesus is in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover; Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper happen at a Seder, the meal of Passover. St. John’s often celebrates a Seder meal as a reminder of the Judeo roots of Christianity.

This Holy Week is our final chance to prepare for the greatest Christian holiday: Easter. For forty days, we have tried to prepare ourselves by abstaining, praying, and numerous other activities. Lent has given us a quiet opportunity to reflect on what we need to do to be ready to receive the Risen Lord.

Just as things are put in order for a Seder, so we must arrange ourselves to be the willing receivers of the coming good news. To do this, we need to make time. Delve into the full experience of Holy Week in the coming days: the humbleness of Maundy Thursday, the chance to grieve on Good Friday, and the anticipation of Holy Saturday. Each of these days is crucial to fully participate in the exuberance of Easter Sunday.

Table set for Passover (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
Pathways through Lent

Lent in a Minor Key

by Barbara Van Woerkom

The Fifth Saturday of Lent

Jeremiah 31:27-34 Psalms 42, 43, 137, 144 Romans 11:25-36 John 11:28-44 or 12:37-50

I welcome the Lenten season each year because it gives me the opportunity to contemplate the immense sacrifice Christ made for us. It’s also a time when the music we sing and listen to is, much to my joy, set in a minor key. Now, I’m not a depressed person, but I revel in the music of melancholy⎯music that sounds sorrowful yet is so pleasingly beautiful. I find that such music lends itself to deeper emotions and feelings than we may be aware of or even want to awaken. It can enhance our contemplation and our understanding of sorrow.

It also gives great joy and peace. John Dowland, the Elizabethan composer and a contemporary of William Shakespeare, was a master of melancholy. He said that “pleasant are the teares which Musicke weepes, neither are teares shed alwayes in sorrowe, but sometime in joy and gladnesse.” There’s no doubt that the exuberant joy that Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus brings is a wonderful experience. But the final chorus of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” is achingly magnificent and so appropriate for Lent, with the last note ending in a major key of hope and peace. I’m grateful for these moments in our calendar when music can bring us closer to an understanding of the suffering and magnificent sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

(Final Chorus of St Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach. Performed by Malmö Chamber Choir and orchestra on April 8, 2009, in Lund Cathedral, Sweden. Conducted by prof. Dan-Olof Stenlund.)