Monday of Holy Week. The wind is cold but in a sheltered place on the seafront the sun is warm on my face, my head resting back into the silence of the morning, John’s Ray Ban’s shielding my eyes. He bought them in Marrakesh from a street vendor who approached us as we were having coffee al fresco, reviewing the week that we had just spent together in the Desert. He is with me in spirit as I sit where we would normally sit at the half-way stage of our walk. We would go just beyond the Azur and double back down the lower level and sit a while. As well as his Ray Ban’s I’m also wearing his ring. Both were given to me after he died.
Being back with the parish congregation was emotional, especially when I said thanks to the people for their messages, cards and support on John’s death. One man said very kindly, “we lost our priest but you lost your friend” and I’m touched by the recognition of our friendship. At the end of Mass on Saturday evening my breath failed, my voice trailed off as tears surged up through my body, stopping just behind my eyes and I swallowed them back down. And afterwards a friend wrote, “a very emotional ending to the Mass tonight. Sending you love, hugs and prayers always. Keep strong.”
But today I’m not emotional in that way. I’m quiet. And want to stay that way. Don’t want to say anything out loud and don’t want to hear anything. Just the quiet and the peace and the sea. A line from morning prayer, “Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you my God” and it goes on to ask, “when can I enter and see the face of God?” (Psalm 42) That has been the quest of my life – to see the face of God. But today I don’t even want that! I don’t not want it. I’m just not looking for it right now. There’s a restlessness in that seeking, a daily restlessness. Today I am neither restless nor seeking. I do not want what is not. My body is incredibly content right now, as is my heart and soul and mind within that body.
We will have a simple Holy Week with less external preparations so that we can pay greater attention to the interior meaning of this most sacred time. I think of the shock of last year when we could not have any gathering for the ceremonies. This year we can, thank God and it’s lovely to hear the sound of children in church again.
We will come to the tomb again where all the trauma and brutality of Christ’s Passion is laid to rest and all our traumas with Him. Back then it seemed to be the end of everything, literally a dead end for the hopes of His companions. But we know it wasn’t a dead end at all. The tomb became the birthplace of new life, the new life of the resurrection. So, when we think we have reached dead ends in our lives, the tomb of Jesus becomes the symbol of hope, the threshold from Lent into Easter, the threshold over which the night of loss passes into the dawn of a new day.
We ask you Lord to bless each of our lives and let the loving kindness of your heart visit us “like the dawn from on high, to give light to those in darkness and those who dwell in the shadow of death and guide our feet into the way of peace.”
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”