Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tenebrae (for Wednesday in Holy Week)

We weary ones on pilgrimage to Easter - tonight is a night of darkness. Tonight is the service of Tenebrae, which in Latin means "shadows." In it we think about the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, and the service sings the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the Psalmody of Lauds and Matins.

After the second chant, there is this passage read responsively in the congregation:
Tristis est anima mea
My soul is very sorrowful, even to the point of death;
remain here and watch with me.
Now you shall see the crowd who will surround me;
you will flee, and I will go to be offered up for you.

V. Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
You will flee, and I will go to be offered up for you.

Behold, the hour is at hand. And then the words I hear as I contemplate the shadows that cover this week:
You will flee, and I will go to be offered up for you. 

When I was reading the passage in Matthew yesterday, after the disciples fall asleep, my eyes fastened onto the following verses (Matthew 26.47-56):

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
  Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
   Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
   “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
  In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

They fled. In French, it reads: Alors tous les disciples l'abandonnèrent, et prirent la fuite. The disciples abandoned him and took flight. They are on the run - clasping their sides with the ache of adrenaline. They could not run fast enough from that garden.

When I was little, and one of my siblings said something mean, or I got into a scuffle about sweaters or hairbrushes, or Mom didn't have time to check my math homework...I ran. Behind our house there is a shed where we keep old bikes and broken lawn mowers and clothes we've outgrown. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me behind that shed. Hot tears slipping down my face, I gasped for air and hide behind the shed, my skirt wet from sitting on the damp ground, my fingers tracing shapes and letters in the grass as I waited for the crying to subside.
(Photo: Mandie Sodoma)
I ran from the fighting itself, from the disturbance of the peace, from the plan overturned. I ran from what surprised me. I ran from what scared me. I ran from what upset me. And now I am back, little Hilary in the garden next to Jesus, and he is sorrowful unto death. The shadows are long tonight, and the kiss rings loudly as chaos and terror and death sweep into the cool night. 

And the candles on the altar tonight are twelve, leading up to the Christ candle. The service begins and they are all lit. One by one, they are extinguished. And they deserted him and fled.

But hidden in the midst of the readings and prayers is an antiphon that gives me hope: "Now the women sitting at the tomb made lamentation, weeping for the Lord."

There were some, the women, who did not flee. Who stayed to make lamentation. Who wept. Could I become like them? Could I learn to stand on my feeble legs in this garden full of shadows and make lamentation, weeping for the Lord? Could I, by Grace, hold fast to him in the night of darkness?

Pray with me (from the Book of Occasional Services and the Book of Common Prayer):

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross.
O Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his back to
the smiters and hid not his face from shame: Give us grace
to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full
assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same
Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with
thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

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