Monday, April 14, 2014 – Holy Week, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 51:1-18(19-20) (morning) // 69:1-23 (evening)
Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-7
As is my usual practice, I read every word of all three Scripture passages this morning. This approach was probably a spiritual mistake, though. Sometimes, I believe that the most effective way of letting the Word speak is by reading until something pierces the heart and then simply stopping there.
Today, I really shouldn’t have read any further than these words from our first reading: “Jerusalem remembers, in the days of her affliction and wandering, all the precious things that were hers in days of old.” As overwhelmed as I feel from day to day, I also realize that I am a woman who is incredibly rich in precious things that won’t always be mine. That awareness alone is enough to push me into a kind of preemptive grief for the inevitable course of life.
What words or images from the Scriptures pierce your own heart today? The book of Lamentations is full of them. Is it the image of Jerusalem as a city that used to be full and vibrant, but that is now deserted and lonely? Or Jerusalem as a woman weeping “bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks,” among many lovers but with no one to comfort her? Or is it Jerusalem whose nakedness has been exposed to the whole world, and who groans in shame and can’t show her face? Or is it the people who desperately need bread, and who sell off all of their treasures for just enough food to sustain them in the short run?
If not today, then perhaps some other time during this holiest of weeks something will break our hearts. The purpose of this exposure to heartbreak is not simply to feel sorry for ourselves. Rather, it is to connect the pain that our hearts feel to the grief and loss of all God’s people. The book of Lamentations is not about personal pain, but about the destruction of Jerusalem. It’s about the loss of something precious, the loss of identity, the loss of homeland, the loss of a sense of God’s presence and protection.
One of the most stunning ways that God works through our lives, and especially through Holy Week, is to prepare our hearts for the losses that will touch our lives—the loss of those we love, the loss of our own strength and control, and even the loss of God’s clear presence. Like Jesus’ disciples and friends, and like Jesus himself on the cross, we will one day need to live without those things.
God will walk with us to this place of loss. And yet, he won’t leave us there: God will open our eyes and our hearts to each day, to each companion, to each thrill of joy and moment of peace, as a pure gift . . . as those “precious things” that are ours not just in days of old, but today. May God begin this work in our hearts during the week ahead.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.