- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Good Friday Thoughts
The Maundy Thursday sermon last night (preached by our assistant rector, Peter Schell (you can see videos of his preaching at the Church of Our Saviour homepage – though not this sermon) has given me a good image to take through this Holy Week observance. He spoke quite simply about how Jesus, in giving his disciples the Eucharist, was giving them a “point of reference” – a landmark to return to when we lose our way. When we feel lost, or headed in the wrong direction, that point of reference, he said, will always reorient us, and help us “find our way home.” It is a gift of love to us.
For me, the whole observance of the Triduum: Maundy Thursday-Good Friday-Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Day – has become such a point of reference in life. Each year, the return to the Cross is a time to re-orient my life toward what is truly real: the mysterious love of God for a broken world – the reality of a way of life offered to us, different from the one we usually choose, a way that leads straight through the brokenness of the world, into the fullness of life that God desires and intends for us and all creation.
And so each year Good Friday invites me to re-orient my life, toward the “home” that is prepared for all of us, beginning right where we are, at the heart of the Divine Life. I bring to the Cross – that mysterious symbol of love and suffering “made holy” (see my previous post) – whatever is most broken in my own life – and I ask what it might mean, in light of the central mystery of our faith.
This year I have a sense of urgency about how true this all feels: the urgency of a love that is always calling to us across whatever obstacles we put in the way – the agony of that love when it is rejected and not heard – and yet its persistence, in a deeply personal and yet mysterious way, in and through the darkest moments of our human experience. I cannot get to it in words, though there is a poem coming, perhaps – in the voice of Christ, beginning “walk with me” –(stay tuned). I’m trying to listen -- there’s an invitation, here at the Cross, to experience the divine desire to share in our human brokenness and to show us a way through that is beyond anything we can find on our own: a way through to life. I am convinced that this is what God offers – and for me Good Friday is a day when it all seems vividly, heartbreakingly true. I am grateful for this.
And yet I also know it is a mystery beyond what anyone can grasp or understand. Each year, in the process of finding our way again, we come up against this. Evelyn Underhill writes “I suppose no soul of any sensitiveness can live through Holy Week without an awed and grateful sense of being incorporated in a mystery of self-giving love which yet remains beyond our grasp.” I see what she means.
At Our Saviour on Maundy Thursday, when the altar is stripped bare, the crosses in the church are also veiled in black. Over the years, that black-veiled Cross has become a powerful invitation to me to simply be in the mystery. I realize that this is a local custom – many churches do it but many don't -- it isn’t observed everywhere. But that solid symbol of hope shrouded in mystery – life hidden in death and brokenness – that black-veiled cross is the symbol, for me, of the mystery to which our lives are oriented. It is the point of reference that I return to each year, to reorient my life, and find my way home. I look forward to spending some quiet time today, in between actual services, simply resting in the presence of that Mystery.