Welcome Wednesday. You are a gentle reminder to “make time to smell the roses.”
‘Make’ time not just ‘take’ time but make time to … work at our relationships with cherished family and friends … play and create … be intentional about our health: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual … wonder and ponder and be in awe.
In other words, may we make time this day, this Wednesday to “smell the roses” of all that life has to offer.
You have set before us many hours. What will we do with those hours?
Choices. There are choices to be made.
Some choices bring change … in our relationships … in our work environments … in our education … in our health … in our decisions
Some choices bring results in our attitude. … Will I see this day as a day to dread? … Will I see this day as a day to consider possibilities? … Will I see this day as a day to anticipate?
Will this day bring … joy to my heart? … peace to my soul? … life to my intellect?
It’s up to me. Each day.
This day I choose … Joy: work in the garden with the earth and seeds and the sunshine … Gratitude: deal with some paperwork so there’s a beginning sense of order in the “to be filed” box. … Creativity: play with with pen and ink and coloured markers for an hour or so.
These days, there seems to be a daily reminder that peace is elusive: news of the pandemic’s “numbers” rising quickly; its variant strains complicating matters; vaccine appointments slowing down in some areas; political goings-on; on top of difficult economic times; how/when/where to grieve the loss of a loved one; increasing sense of abuse happening in relationships; teachers, ferry workers, bus/transport drivers who see their jobs as ‘essential,’ but the government doesn’t see it that way, so they’re not on any vaccine list.
Peace is not just elusive for some. Peace is elusive for a growing number of people around the world and as a result, stress and mental health issues are on the rise.
While we sometimes experience ‘stress’ as “eustress” (from the Greek “eu” meaning “good”), according to the endocrinologist Hans Selye, eustress is the kind of stress that is healthy and gives a good, positive feeling.
However, more often than not, the stress that is experienced is “distress” (from the Latin prefix “dis” meaning “having a negative force”). Distress describes unpleasant/negative feelings or emotions that impact the level of functioning. Sometimes the stress is related to work. Sometimes the stress is related to relationships. Sometimes the stress is related to health or finances or lack thereof. Sometimes the stress is related to busyness or needing to be perfect or organized or … Sometimes the stress is related to grief. Sometimes the stress is related to fear … fear of the known … fear of the unknown. Sometimes the distress is a combination of several of the above.
S e r e n i t y. We want it. We want to exhale fear and inhale peace. P e a c e. We need it
But fear, busyness, worries, grief, physical pain, guilt, sleepless nights, and those everpresent “what-if’s” creep into our minds. And then there are the actions of bullies (at work, school, cyberspace), politicians, media, conspiracy theorists who further propel thoughts away from experiencing any sense of peace.
And yet … and yet … serenity and peace are available. We only need to be aware of them in the gift of our breath in the gift of words, spoken in the silence of hearts to one another, and to ourselves. Like these words, this prayer, this Celtic spirituality-based prayer this whispered hope … bring some semblance of peace this night.
Circle me. Keep protection near And danger afar. Circle me. Keep hope within. Keep doubt without. Circle me. Keep light near And darkness afar. Circle me. Keep peace within. Keep evil out. <adapted from the work of David Adam)
Blessings to you, my friends. And, peace. May the nourishment of the earth be yours, May the clarity of light be yours, May the fluency of the ocean be yours, May the protection of the ancestors be yours. <John O’Donohue>
It’s here! Finally! Finally we have come to the end of Lent, the end of Holy Week, and it is Easter! “Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
As the little girl stuck out her tongue at the other little girl, she exclaimed “So there! I told you so! I was right! My mother said that the earth is round and if she said it’s round, then that proves it!”
Proof. We want proof that is tangible, reliable, trustworthy. This day, we want proof of the Resurrection. And especially, in this pandemic, we want proof!
The good news is the proof is here – all around us. Not in the physical resurrection appearance of Jesus, but in the hands and feet of Jesus’ followers today.
It’s in the selfless action of … those who staff the pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores, gas stations, car repair shops …. the truck drivers, ferry workers, school teachers … health care workers, first responders, funeral attendants, nursing home workers It’s in the creative ways people are discovering they can keep in touch, see one another and share through technology and still maintain social distancing.
It’s in the kindness of volunteers … picking up groceries for the elderly, self-isolating, quarantined and immunocompromised … sewing surgical caps and adapting their 3D printers to make face masks for hospital/medical staff … putting together meals for the homeless, for the shut-ins, lunches for school children, Food Banks
Proof of the Resurrection? Look around your community. 🙂 Christ is risen in you. Christ is risen in me. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”
We’re almost at Easter! But, not yet. We have one more day to go.
Today. Holy Saturday … the precipice between yesterday’s tragedy of Good Friday and tomorrow’s triumph of Easter Sunday.
Holy Saturday might be likened to a “Morning-After” situation.
The “Morning-After” when the worst thing that could possibly have happened, happened. Like … ~ When you received the devastating medical diagnosis ~ When you were fired ~ When you realized you had to self-isolate for 14 days because of COVID19 and couldn’t do your own shopping, get your hair cut, your nails done, play a couple of rounds of golf, visit your grandchildren/children/parents/grandchildren/friends ~ When your spouse confessed to cheating ~ When you were at a great party and woke up with a doozy of a headache and learned that you had driven your car the previous night and had injured or killed someone ~ When the nightmare of yesterday was real – your beloved spouse or child or parent died and you realize it actually happened and was not just a bad dream ~ When you discovered your dreams about a special job or school or retirement were shattered. ~ When you discovered a fire had ravaged your home and there was nothing left – no photos, no computer, no important documents, no clothes, no furniture, nothing
We likely all have a story we can relate to when we were beyond-beyond comprehension. And if we can’t think of anything in the past, for many, living this COVID19 life, each day, is our ‘Morning-After’ … a time that is really difficult to see beyond the escalating virus and … the day when our life came to a standstill.
Our Holy Saturday morning experience is similar to the disciples when they couldn’t see beyond the tomb of Jesus, when they couldn’t see beyond the reality of His crucifixion and death.
The Holy Saturday of long ago and the Holy Saturday of today have similarities. So we wait. We keep Vigil. And sometime, between tonight’s sunset on Holy Saturday and tomorrow’s sunrise on Easter Sunday, we observe the Great Vigil of Easter.
The liturgy of the Great Vigil of Easter begins in darkness. Then a fire is lit and symbolically brought into the sanctuary/home by a candle.
As the service of prayerful watching continues, Scripture is read, prayers are offered, the Exsultet is sung, holy Baptism or the Renewal of Baptismal vows happens and the first celebration of Holy Communion begins the glorious Season of Easter … with light throughout the room/sanctuary along with joyful music, colourful flowers, great smiles and the exuberant shouting of “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” by all who are present.
A sense of unbridled joy fills hearts as the wilderness of Lent, the Cross, the empty tomb and the great passover moves us from death to life.
In these COVID19 days, when images of death fill the airwaves and people are confined to their homes to avoid contracting or spreading the virulent virus, and we can’t be with others to share the good news that “Christ is risen,” or our Jewish friends cannot be with their loved ones to celebrate Passover, what then?
Why not do what we did at 7:00 pm each night at the beginning of the pandemic — give thanks and celebrate our front line COVID19 workers who are staffing hospitals and ambulances, working in essential stores and truck and pharmacies and medical offices etc.?
Let’s sing out loud in our homes, our streets. Let’s bang our pots and pans. Let’s joyfully proclaim Easter is here! Passover is here! The Great Vigil of Easter is over! We are not alone.
We WILL get through this pandemic and its virulent strains together!
It’s Friday in Holy Week … known as Good Friday. When you woke up this morning, did you say “TGIF – Thank God it’s Friday!” as many did on Fridays before COVID19 because they were grateful Friday had come and they were looking forward to the weekend?
This Friday isn’t just “any” Friday. It’s different. It’s Friday in Holy Week. A Friday that many refer to as “Good Friday.”
But what can be “good” about a day when Jesus the man, raw from the lashes of a whip, was laid out, arms stretched and bound with ropes to the rough surface of a wooden cross beam, wrists pierced with sharp spikes, feet nailed on a wooden beam, his exhausted body craving release from his suffering, his spirit grieving by the rejection and betrayal of others?
Before COVID19 entered the world, relatively few Christians observed Good Friday by participating in a church service. And now that most churches are still closed, many still cannot do that.
It would be a lot easier to forget the relevance of this day in general and also in light of what is happening around us during the pandemic because many would say that there’s little or nothing “good” about this day.
That word “good” is perhaps a misnomer.
Some Germans refer to today as ‘karfreitag,’ (the ‘kar’ being an obsolete ancestor of ‘mourning’) and some parts of the world call this “Mourning Friday” putting attention on the disciples who grieved and mourned.
Some follow the belief that this day was originally called “God Friday,” hypothesizing that today is “good” because Jesus was demonstrating his love for humanity by offering his life.
But if that is so, why die in such a brutal manner? Why die so young? Why not take on the sinfulness of all humanity on a deathbed after a long fruitful life of showing and teaching people the way to God?
Maybe there is yet another way to understand why today is known as Good Friday. In early modern English, the meaning of ‘good’ had the sense of ‘holy.’ So perhaps the ‘good” is an archaic form of holy?
We actually don’t know the answer. It’s all conjecture.
Good Friday is unresolved. It’s a tragic and terrible day. And the pandemic makes it even more terrible and tragic.
Regardless of what we call this day, it is a day when we face reality head-on … when we are fully conscious that the Christian walk is seldom easy and at the same time are aware of Grace in God’s unconditional love.
Titus Brandsma was a university President in the Netherlands during WW11. Arrested by the Nazis, placed in a concentration camp, isolated in an old dog kennel, tortured daily, his guards amused themselves by ordering him to bark like a dog when they passed by him. Eventually Titus died from the torture.
What the Nazis didn’t know was that Brandsma kept a diary during that time, writing between the lines of print in an old prayerbook. It was there that his poem to Jesus was found: “The lovely way that you once walked has made me sorrow-wise. Your love has turned to brightest light this night-like way of mine. Stay with me Jesus, only stay. I shall not fear if, reaching out my hand, I feel that You are near.”
Good Friday is a day when we remind ourselves that in the Christian understanding of hope, nothing – not even death – can overwhelm the love God has for us.
This day is not an ending. It is a holy day of a new beginning.
The Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) begins tomorrow with Maundy Thursday. The Triduum is comprised of three days where symbols of death and life are dramatic and poignant reminders of the fragility of life and can be a unique opportunity for Anglicans/Episcopalians – for anyone – to join religious traditions around the world who continue to use some form of prayer beads as part of their prayer life.
Since the earliest of times, people have used pebbles, a string of knots, or beads on a cord to keep track of their prayers offered to God. Anglican Prayer Bead necklaces (33 beads were created in the mid 1980s to help bring people into contemplative / meditation prayer and more intentionally be in the presence of the Holy One. Touching the fingers on each bead, is intentional. It is intended to help keep one’s mind from wandering and the rhythm of the prayers helps lead one into stillness.
Some background for those unfamiliar with Anglican Prayer Bead Necklaces. There are “names” for the thirty-three (representing the number of years of Jesus’ earthly life) beads which comprise the Anglican Prayer Bead necklace: “Weeks” – twenty eight beads divided into four groups of seven … seven to represent the seven days of the week. “Cruciform” – four beads between each ‘week’ helping to form an invisible Cross. “Invitatory” – the bead between the cruciform bead and the cross/medallion which acts as a call to worship and an invitation to a time of focused prayer. Some people add a bead above the Invitatory bead (the “Resurrection” bead) as a reminder that Christ lives on.
Praying the Anglican Prayer Bead necklace is often done ~ in an unhurried pace, followed by a period of silence with time for reflection and listening. ~ by praying around the circle of beads three times (representing the Trinity) ~ by using whatever prayers you choose for the beads in the Weeks, the four beads making the Cruciform, the bead between the Cruciform bead and the medallion/Cross … or simply by holding the beads/necklace in your hands as you pray.
How to pray using the Prayer Beads ~ no particular ‘format’ but some suggestions: Isaiah 41: 10-13 (at the beginning – holding the Cross/medallion); Isaiah 40: 29-31 (Cruciform beads); Matthew 11:28 (Weeks beads); Psalm 27: 1,3 (at the Cross) ; Psalm 29:11; the Lord’s Prayer; the Prayer of St. Francis; the prayer of Dame Julian of Norwich.
Over the years, many Anglican Prayer Bead necklaces have made their way from my home to others. I have found that in the making of them, yet another opportunity presents itself for me to enter into a contemplative mode. If you’d like to make your own, here are some simple steps: ~ Tape the end of thin, bendable wire or dental floss, cord or bead-making string ~ Choose twenty-eight beads that are similar to one another ~ String seven of those beads onto the wire, dental floss, string, using ‘spacers’ (ultra small beads) between the Weeks beads (number you use is optional as they are not counted as part of the Prayer Beads ~ Choose four different (a big larger helps) beads for the Crucifer beads ~ String one of the Cruciform beads onto the wire, floss, string ~ Continue the bead pattern of Weeks (spacers-optional), Cruciform ~ Choose a separate bead (the Invitatory bead – and spacer if desired) ~ String the Invitatory bead ~ Add a Cross, medallion, final bead. ~ Close off the necklace with jewellery endings or knot the two ends together
May this Triduum be a holy and meaningful moment in your spiritual journey as you consider the integration of Anglican Prayer Beads in your spiritual practice.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ An aside: separate reflections for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, (and when Easter arrives, for Easter Sunday and throughout the Season of Easter) will be available in the morning of their respective day. See the links below.