Grace was so, well, full of grace last night. It was truly one of the most beautiful services I have ever been to. The church was dimly lit. There were dozens of candles illuminating the altar of repose and the choir. The priests started in white robes with red stoles... and changed to black albs while stripping the altar.
I was teary through the whole thing. For me, nothing can choke me up more powerfully than seeing the cross shrouded in black. For some reason, that single thing just opens my heart. I cry for grief and joy. For sorrow and thanksgiving. I really do need to bring some tissues next time. I dripped everywhere.
Last night I brought a friend who has been struggling somewhat with her own Christian path. Unlike me, she was raised as a Christian, but wandered away at some point. I believe Jesus is calling to her now, and I think she is responding to that call. But I know how hard that leap can be, so I pray for her constantly to be unafraid, to trust in God, who can heal all wounds. She was weeping through the service with me, so we must have been quite a funny sight... a couple of redheads leaking away in the pews.
The sermon was amazing. Our associate priest, Hope, gave the homily and it was really powerful. She talked about 'last suppers' in her own life... and how there is always the temptation to try and cram into them all the last minute things you wish you had said before. I love when I think of Jesus the man, feeling like a parent who is about to send his children off into the world. Knowing it is going to be hard and dangerous and scary for them. Giving them the best advice: Love one another. Don't squabble. Be servants to the world. Those simple, yet profoundly difficult instructions.
At the altar, I just let the tears flow freely as I took the bread and the wine into my body. I really am a goofus, I know.
Then, during the vigil, it turned out that I was not alone after all. There were three of us sitting there for a couple of hours. It was interesting to realize that all my centering prayer practice allowed me to sit quietly for that long and not fidget much. In the end, when the pew started to feel really hard, I began to do the rosary on my fingers. The five sorrowful mysteries. (Which I still don't really know.) By the time I got to the second one it was 10 pm and I went up to the altar and knelt down and asked Jesus to forgive me for leaving.
So, if you are still with me, you might be wondering where John of the Cross fits in. Well, to make a very long post even more interminable, when I came home, I draped my crosses in black and went to bed. Since I have been reading the bible all these weeks, I have had a copy of the Dark Night of the Soul sitting on my bedside table, untouched. I decided to crack it open for a few minutes before falling asleep.
And St. John gave me a whack upside the head.
All my crying and carrying on in the service,
All my "holy spirit" experiences,
All of it is just because I am pathetically inexperienced as a Christian. And don't let that stuff make you puff up with spiritual pride, either, sister, or you will get a major whack, not just from me... but from the big guy.
It is hard to tell where spiritual pride ends and profound gratitude begins. It is hard to distinguish secret self-satisfaction from unbridled joy. I know there is a temptation there for me.
On the other hand...
Meditation #104 from The Book of the Lover and the Beloved, by Ramon Lull:
Every day, sighs and tears are messengers between the Lover and the Beloved, so that between them there may be solace, companionship, friendship and goodwill.