Well, I'm posting again at the request of my friend Sharon -- who is keeping me from running off the rails, blogwise. I don't have photos to share -- at least when I post photos, I feel as though I'm giving you something besides my own narcissistic ramblings. But oh, well, today that's what you get.
What was I thinking I might say about a stressful Lent? Lots of obligations, I think, a book study group that went very well, but on about the 4th reading, I wasn't really happy with the book (Richard Foster's "A Celebration of Discipline"). There were a number of surgeries and hospitalizations that merited visits in addition to the normal Lenten stuff. Planning for everything: flowers, candles, Holy Week services -- I love all those things, and have people who assist, but it's really still a massive effort on the part of this small, sleepy retirement parish, and some of my usual "assistant planners" also have their own life stressors, primarily personal illness and ailing spouses or family members.
But finally, we got to Holy Week. Oh, my. At 3 am on Palm Sunday I got a call from the hospital: a parishioner had died and his widow was asking for me. I had been up late the night before, finishing my Palm Sunday sermon and just messing around -- I found I stayed up late lots of nights during Lent, because the busy schedule left me little time for reflection and relaxation, and I tended to grab that time late at night. In any event, I found myself at the hospital before 3:30, holding the widow as she wept, praying prayers for the dead and anointing my parishioner/friend who died so suddenly. The time around death and funerals is a very holy time for me, and while I was exhausted, I knew that I was fulfilling my highest calling when I was with the widow at the hospital that night. Home for another 2 hours' sleep, and then up and off to church for a service we only do once a year (those invariably make me a little nervous, I want to get them just right), and instead of being able to process outside with our palms this year, it was raining, and so we started in the parish hall and simply proceeded down the hallway to the church proper (which we Episcopalians call the nave).
Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week, and Holy Week is the busiest (and often most stressful) in a priest's life. We had services on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (2 services), Saturday (2 services, with the unexpected funeral scheduled for that day), and then on to Easter Sunday. Counting Palm Sunday, I had 5 sermons to write and preach in that time. I also had another parishioner who had surgery the week before in a town 1/2 hour away, and I needed and wanted to visit her. And at the office, there were all the preparations -- service leaflets, church arrangements (again, I certainly didn't do it all, but I had to supervise and coordinate it all), two receptions (after the funeral, and after the Great Vigil of Easter, on Saturday night) to make sure all was well.
Through this all, the owls (to which I referred you in the last post) kept me sane. Molly has been such a good mom, and McGee has been such a good provider for the family (owls mate for life, or nearly so, you know). The chicks (we got 4 out of 6 eggs -- the 1st and last didn't hatch) are growing like weeds, and may begin flying lessons soon. Literally millions of people have visited their site, including numerous classes of elementary and middle school kids. I wonder how many zoologists this experience could spawn. Yes, I've been a little obsessed, a little enamored by them. But they really are one aspect of the Easter story -- life blooms and grows and continues, generation after generation.
But I'm telling you: this was probably the most profound and meaningful Holy Week I've almost ever had -- certainly one of the top 2 that I've had in the 7 Easters I've been here at this church. Palm Sunday was a blur (on maybe 4 hours' sleep), but the Holy Week services were incredibly moving. Our bible study is focusing on the book of Exodus, and the parallels for me on promise and deliverance, slavery and freedom, and God's hand reaching down into the course of human affairs, really, really moved me profoundly this year. If you haven't read Julian of Norwich's "Revelations of Divine Love," or "Showings," you really should. She had mystical visions of the crucifixion that are initially somewhat disturbing, but which ultimately make her well-known phrase, "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing shall be well," something we all need to hear.
I took Monday and Tuesday off -- it was all so intense that my neurological circuits were fried. Then Wednesday we had a healing service that was like no other. This small Wednesday service is one of the high points of my week (along with the bible study that follows it). I love anointing people for healing, laying on my hands and praying especially for them and those whose concerns are on their hearts. I don't know what happens, exactly, but it is profound, and was more profound than usual this week. I had my newly widowed lady (who has NEVER attended this service) and another couple who had never attended, the wife of whom had surgery for cancer today. Oh, my, such raw pain and need for healing, and everyone there (all the "old regulars") felt it, too. It was a really, really holy time.
I think I'll talk about me -- my own feelings about my winter weight gain, what I'm doing about that, etc. another time. I still feel as though I'm standing barefoot on holy ground when I write about Holy Week. The last 3 days, especially (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), and then Easter Sunday, were so transcendent for me, so redolent of life and death, of slavery and freedom, of promise and fulfillment. All the rest, including this beautiful spring on the Plateau and my languishing veggie garden, will have to wait until at least tomorrow. Maybe I can even get some pictures to break up this "wall of words" for you!
Please, those of you who care about the Christian yearly cycle -- remember that we do celebrate FIFTY days of Easter! It's as important as the twelve days of Christmas! Keep celebrating! How can you NOT when spring is here??