Saturday, April 23, 2011

Triduum and Grief

This year, as usual, I find myself either in choir rehearsal or service (or both) on almost every day of Holy Week. Although Holy Week is a crazy time for all those in the ministry professions, most years I find myself feeling still. (I should note that I don't have to plan all these services and run a church office, I just have to show up and sing.)

Other years, I have felt uncomfortable with Triduum, which is the time between the Maundy Thursday service and the Easter service. One year, I felt I had been grieving enough in the season of Lent, and did not attend Triduum service because I couldn't handle grief for Jesus on top of everything else. One of my pastors at H-EUMC lost her mom last week, and she is not coming to Triduum services.

This year, however, I feel oddly comfortable. This space in which we contemplate grief, suffering, and death, seems familiar. For once, I feel as if everyone else is on my wavelength. I think it's because I have been grieving the losses of my Boston University community and my expected life plan, while enduring the mini-losses of job-hunting. According to the small tally I keep on my fridge whiteboard, I sent out 45 resumes and had 10 job interviews last summer. I got two temp jobs out of that effort; I am still in the hiring process to become a full-time salaried worker at the second.

One of my BU profs, Shelly Rambo, wrote a book on trauma theory and the Gospel of John's theme of "remaining." She says that Christians must pay more attention to Holy Saturday. In the aftermath of trauma, faced with grief and the fragmentation of experience, we remain with the Holy Spirit.

God is there.

Yesterday, as I sat in the Good Friday service at Marsh Chapel, I realized that God has been here with me in my grief during the last year of un/deremployment and transition out of academia. It hit me when Dean Hill quoted Psalm 139:7, in the King James version: "Whither shall I go from they Spirit?" Here is the context. I used the KJV for its poetic quality.

1O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
 2Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
 3Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
 4For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
 5Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
 7Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
 8If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
 9If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
 10Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
 11If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
 12Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:1-12, King James Version)

Psalm 139 reminds us that God is there in our darkest moments. When Jesus was dying on the cross, God was there. When we walk though the wilderness, God is there. Dean Hill, in his fondness for alliteration, called these places "the holy habitation of the Most High."

Even in the times when we think God is far away, or even that God has abandoned us, this place where we dwell in sorrow is a holy place. It's the place where God dwells with us.

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