"Can you not watch with me one hour?" read my signup poster about the all-night vigil in the chapel. In retrospect, that may have struck too accusatory a tone. A little negative, like "Haven't you done those dishes yet?" I think maybe so.
It seems that I can do just about that: an hour and then, like the other disciples, I doze off. The day was a long one. The chapel is exquisite, a tiny grove of olive leaves, studded with waxy calla lilies and lilacs. And candles, in every candlestick we have, from the pavement candles for funerals to the two confections of flowers and grapes and kernels of wheat fashioned in brass, lighting the Travertine marble of the sanctuary, bathing it in gold. The beauty is deeply soothing and deeply still; the soul rests easily in such a garden, the way a child nods off in her seat with a trusted parent at the wheel of the car. Everything that is needful is right here. It is all being taken care of. I can close my eyes and drift off.
We refer to Christ's "agony" in the garden at Gethsemane, but only he seems to have known that agony. The others were secure in his presence; they slept the sleep of tired bodies and peaceful minds. As long as he was there, they were fine. And there he was, just a few feet away.
But he did not sleep.
This was the process of surrender. We think about it as a human thing, and so it is: the recognition of where our power leaves off and God's power begins. Life is unmanageable until we come to terms with that limit - we try fruitlessly, again and again, to do things we cannot do on our own, and again and again, we collapse onto the heap of our own impotence. Mostly it is exhaustion that teaches us to stop doing that -- "sick and tired of being sick and tired" is how people in recovery from addiction remember it.
We don't know enough about Jesus' day to day life to know if there were other things in his life that needed to end in order for him to be empowered -- the idea that Jesus the humans being might have had faults or flaws is troubling to some, and is not the theme of Holy Week anyway -- but we do know that life itself was one. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, he told his friends, it cannot grow. What we face in the days ahead is necessary in order for me to come into my own.
I slept. Q slept. Tom slept. Ben slept. But Jesus did not sleep.
We are who we are.
Bill Tully of St. Bartholomew's in New York said it well this week: Holy Week gives you something the world cannot give you. Yes, we know the story. We can talk it -- maybe we can even recite it. But walking it gives us something we can get nowhere else. I can't put it any better in words. You have to see for yourself.
At. St. James in Florence:
Stations of the Cross this morning, 10-12noon.
A Service of Word and Music this afternoon, 12-3pm
Easter Vigil with Baptism tomorrow, 8pm.
Mass of the Resurrection Sunday, 9 and 11am.
The Most Rev'd. Katharine Jefferts Schori,
celebrant and preacher