Three hour service at Grace. I sit in a pew, alone for most of it, clutching my rosary beads. I can't bear the idea of sitting through those three hours without the Mother with me. Every now and then I pray a decade. I have no idea what mysteries I am praying, except that they are sorrowful.
I am beaming.
I can't stop thinking about the night before. The Vigil at the Altar of Repose. The first time I felt a sense of absolute adoration of our Lord in the consecrated host.
I have a confession scheduled after the service, but I can't think of what I am going to say.
Last year, I was flooded with things to confess during the Good Friday service. I kept looking at my priest, while he was kneeling during the prayers, and thinking of all the things I was going to say to him. By the time the actual confession came, I was beside myself with grief.
But not this time.
This time, I feel light and free and joyful. I have a few things to say, sure. Grave things, even. But I can't help feeling that during the night, while sitting at the feet of my Lord, they were all forgiven.
"It is finished."
The preacher on Good Friday is Bishop Steven Charleston. He's amazing. He walks down the aisle and looks you in the eye. And holds your gaze while what he is saying sinks in. He is talking about the conversion of life. About leaving your pain at the base of the cross. About inviting Jesus, TODAY, to heal you. If there had been an altar call, I swear you'd have seen a church full of Episcopalians step forward.
I praise God during the meditations. But they don't resonate for me. My Easter has already come. It came last night.
The service comes to a close. I kneel as the bells are tolled. It goes on for a long time. People are weeping around me. I weep too, but realize that I am full of
I wait for my priest outside the sacristy. He comes out of the robing room and tells me that the Bishop will hear my confession.
I go into the robing room. There are no confessionals at Grace. The Bishop stands to greet me. There is a chair for me. I sit.
"I feel unprepared, Bishop" I say.
"How so?" he asks.
"I feel like my sins were all forgiven last night. I am not sure I can make a thorough and accurate confession today." I explain about the Altar of Repose.
"Do you wish to continue?" He asks."You don't have to."
I tell him, yes, I want to. I am not sure why.
So we begin. I kneel on a cushion next to the chair and I try to be as searching and as thorough as I can. I mumble a few things. I feel remorseful as I say them, but it is like a retroactive confession. Jesus has already washed me clean.
Finally, I just fall silent. I am praying: Lord, if there is more that you want me to say, please help me remember.
I can't speak for a long time. I wonder if the Bishop is uncomfortable in the silence. Or impatient to get home. Or bored. Or as dumbstruck as I am.
I finally manage to finish.
It is finished.
I am absolved.
I am asked to pray for the Bishop, a sinner, like me.
A man forgiven. Like me.
A man of God.
We embrace, say goodbye, go on our way.
For me, Easter came early this year.