Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Week: words, images and sounds for the journey toward Easter

I apologize to anyone who has noticed that I haven't posted for almost a month. My life has been unusually busy - not over anything bad - just biting off more than I could chew with an online class and an online Lenten retreat at the same time. While both have been good, the retreat has been so good, so beautiful, so powerful - though not always easy. With other pilgrims on the Lenten journey, there has been much sharing of thoughts, struggles and art. I'd like to share a just a bit of what it has brought me to in these final days of Holy Week.

I have mentioned before my affiliation with through which this retreat was available. Our "abbess" (leader), Christine, has shared many wonderful ideas and images throughout. With her permission, I would like to share some of her thoughts. First, she talked about how we cannot rush to resurrection. Whether we are believers, skeptics or unbelievers, the tendency in all of us is to want to skip the hard, painful parts of life to get to the "Easter" experiences. The final path of Jesus was one of betrayal, rejection, physical pain and abandonment. To consider walking with Him, means walking through these experiences - and most assuredly, we do not want to. Let's just get to the colored eggs, the candy, the family dinner and not have to deal with the gut-wrenching loss of being put to death (whatever that means to each of us as individuals).

Yet we all know, believer or not, that we cannot escape these experiences. Our lives are, at best, dotted with them -  sometimes are filled with them. And one of our greatest challenges as human beings is to accept this part of our existence. These experiences can fill us with confusion, sometimes rage or despair. Where was this so-called loving God when I went through this? Where is He now when I most need Him?

I will show you in a moment where He was, where He is. First, I'd like to share some profound words offered by Christine in the retreat this week:

“We must know the terrible experience of loss wrought again and again in our world so that when the promise of new life dawns we can let it enter into us fully in the space carved by loss.”   
                                - Christine Valters Paintner, OblSB, PhD, REACE

"in the space carved by loss" - these words struck me with great power when I first read them and they still do. I would never say that God sends us loss or pain or any of the other horrible things that afflict us just to accomplish some other purpose. That is not the God I believe in. However, the notion that loss creates a space in us which we can allow new life to fill is very consistent with the God I believe in. He can transform our pain if we give it to Him. Not only that though. He holds our pain and bears it with us. He becomes our pain and, in becoming it, He shares it more intimately than we could believe possible.

I said I would show you where He is/was when you were (or are) suffering. It may seem when I show you, that I am trying to preach the Christian message, to convert you to my religion. Please believe me that that is not my intent - for I respect wherever you may be with believing or not believing. (And if you don't want to continue to the end of this posting, that too is fine.) What I am sharing with you is an artistic expression of images that came from a sacred place within me during this retreat, along with harp strings playing the melody of an old spiritual: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (I am not claiming good art or musicianship - simply a message coming from my heart.)

(To listen, click on the play button, then continue to scroll down for the images.)

(It does not end here. I hope to be posting again in a few days...)