The Holy Spirit and I make a pretty good tag team. I organized the all night vigil at the Altar of Repose and the HS got people to sign up. So we had people sitting in the dark church in the middle of downtown Providence from 8pm until 6am.
The altar was so beautiful. One of our parishioners, Christopher, decorated it with twinkling votive candles and white freesias in tall glass vases. During the Maundy Thursday service, we snuck over to light all the candles. I knocked over a vase and dropped a whole box of wooden matches on the floor. (I am guessing Christopher will not let me help again next year, LOL.) But still, we finished in time for the priests to carry the hosts and chalice and a small cruet of wine over from the main altar.
A word about the Eucharist: I know I have said it before, but I believe, beyond any doubt, that these elements contain the substance of Jesus. It could be my imagination, but how would I have even known to imagine that when I went to my first altar vigil? I didn't know about real presence then. And yet, sitting in the dark with them, I was overwhelmed with a sense of the presence of Jesus.
Last night, I sat for awhile in the pews, but then I walked up to the altar itself and sat at the feet of Jesus.
I was there for three hours. At first I was afraid of that much time. Would I get bored? Would I fall asleep? At one point the candles needed to be replaced, so I gingerly approached and one by one dropped little white disks of wax on top of the spent ones. Then, carefully, used a long lighter to light each one. Carefully, carefully, lest I accidentally disturb the precious chalice. A cruet of wine was sitting in front of the chalice. I leaned over to smell it. I knocked over another little vase, so I went out to get a paper towel and knelt on the floor before the altar, wiping it up.
I was both Mary and Martha last night.
In the past I have been afraid that if I was Martha, I would lose Mary. I was afraid that I couldn't be both. And I know the better part. But last night, I found Mary by being Martha... organizing the vigil, making a sign up sheet, putting signs on the door. Then watching in wonder as the Holy Spirit inspired people, strangers and friends, to come out on a cold spring night and sit in a dark church watching over a cup of wine and a few crackers for hours at a time. Including my husband, who was there from 1am to 3. And my friend Michelle who went from 12 to 2. Miracles.
One last thing-
All night, as I felt moved to weep, I was asking myself, Rachel, why weepest thou? Is it grief over his death and betrayal? Or is it joy for having been saved? And maybe I grew to understand that as a Christian, grief and joy are fused together by grace.
Stay with me
Remain here with me
Watch and pray
Watch and pray