Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Morning Thanks--Holy Week

File:Folio 173v - The Entry into Jerusalem.jpg

Yesterday, at church, I was reminded that this is Holy Week--Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, then, next Sunday, Easter.  I hadn't been thinking of it.  

But then, I grew up in the Reformation's 400-year afterglow, distrusting just about anything remotely "Roman Catholic" and eschewing, like my people, ritual excess of all kinds.  The folks I grew up among preferred bare minimums in church, no soloists, no praise bands, no banners, maybe a few panes of stained glass but certainly no stations of the cross.  We weren't Puritans, per se, but our churches and our liturgies were scrubbed clean and purged of formalities.  

I never heard of Maundy Thursday until I was thirty, at least. When I was a boy, we would have thought such exacting ritual to be as excessive as fish on Fridays. Maundy Thursday--I still had to look it up to spell it correctly--wasn't part of our way of our ritual, part of our worship tradition. I think we would have thought it strange--or foreign--to have someone wash our feet, in part because bare feet in church, we might well have considered gauche.  I grew up in a mightily religious family, but no one ever called these seven days "Holy Week."

But that doesn't mean we didn't know such things.  On Good Friday, at noon, the church bells rang and there was no school.  That I remember.  For three hours Daane Hardware locked its doors, just as did Stuart Mentink at IGA, John Daane at Red Owl, and one of the Wykhuises at their grocery.  The Wooden Shoe restaurant across the street doused its grill, I'm sure, and  although I don't remember exactly, I'm betting Flipse's didn't tap a beer either. In town, everything stopped for three hours.

That memory has some profundity; it lies in solemn state in my soul, really.

In the Philipines, I've read, pious believers make a practice of visiting seven churches on Maundy Thursday, a practice calle Visita Iglesia.  It's likely been done hither and yon already these days, but if it hasn't it might be a sweet idea in towns like the ones down the road, where there are plenty more than seven churches not all that far from each other.  

Ritual--our religious practice--can be a nest of hooks because it sustains as well as mortifies. It's confusing to some and patently ridiculous to others.  These days new "with-it" churches are built on the ashes of burned-out walls created by what are, to some, confining, lifeless rituals.

In the Netherlands, a country that would describe itself, I think, as deeply secular, everything closes down on Pinkster, Pentecost.  It's true.  Here in deeply religious Sioux County, a colony of the descendants of Holland's own most orthodox Protestants, Pentecost gets a mention on Sunday, I'm sure, but little else.

Or how about this?--Canada, I'm told, a country far less religious than the U.S., has no school on Good Friday. Here, even Christian schools don't shut their doors.

I'm not sure what practices Mother Teresa ritualized, come Holy Week, but anyone who believed in the traditional mission of the church as deeply as she did, I'm sure lived by whatever rituals were mandated or even suggested. She lived in liege to the church really, and I expect that if we would have a log book of her Maundy Thursday practice, all kinds of penitence would be there in boldface.

But then, few Christians I know have been as devoted to sacrifice as she was.

When Jesus suffered on the cross, she argued, "even his own father didn't claim Him as his son." God himself rejected Jesus "because God cannot accept sin and Jesus had taken on sin."
"Do you realize," she told her sisters in the order, "that when you accept the vows you accept the same fate as Jesus?"

It's a hybrid theology she uses here, a theology that emerges from her reading of Christ's passion, as well as the experience of her own profound loss of faith.  She wants to be him, to bear his suffering, not for him--she knows that's not possible--but simply to be like him, to be Jesus.

And to do that, she needs to suffer, even the rejection of the Father.  I'm beginning to understand her, and I respect her greatly.  But I don't believe her.

There are mysteries this week, mysteries we cannot know. And I'm thankful, this Monday morning of this Holy Week, for what she did, what she stood for, and what she became--thankful for what she thought and said and did.  

I don't share her perceptions or her theology, but it's been good, in this early morning darkness, to try to understand her, which is also, of course, to try to understand those mysteries, those profound mysteries of this and every Holy Week of the year. 


Anonymous said...

In Australia, also a very secular country, Good Friday is observed religiously. Venues that are open most days of the year are closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day. Not that many attend church. That's another story.

Anonymous said...

"We weren't Puritans, per se, but our churches and our liturgies were scrubbed clean and purged of formalities."


Denominationalism, classis, synod, seminary trained clergy, Calvinism [i.e. Canons of Dordt, Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession], are all carry overs [just the fact that they are there] of the thinking the Catholics inserted into the concept of "Church".

All insertions suggest that the scripture is insufficient and we want and need add-ons. Which denomination did Jesus endorse and attend?

As I look back over the 45 years I have not affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, I am realizing just how Catholic in practice we really were.

Anonymous said...

Failed to mention infant baptism?

Anonymous said...

The list is not intended to be exhaustive, just a few items to make the point.

What is the central point?

The CRC and many many other protestant churches act and function more like the Catholic Church than authentic new testament churches. The same rationale that is used to justify classis or synods is the same rationale used by the Catholics to justify the College of Cardinals and other man-made facets of an organized church.

When one asks most denominational protestants to drill down into the roots of their faith they hit bedrock and stop drilling when they get to the reformation.

New testament church Christians continue to drill down to ACTS and identify with the first Christian church headed by Jesus Christ instead of some reformer.

Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

Very few denominational folks will respond to these comments or truths because they know without a doubt, denominations, classis, synods, seminary trained clergy, Calvinists, Lutherans and all other man-made add-ons can not be supported by any Bible facts.

Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

A Church Divided Over Leaders

Corinthians 1:10-17

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power