Saturday, April 12, 2014

Holy Week


Tomorrow Holy Week begins and as every year, I am filled with a mixture of dread, longing and a sense of loss: dread for the inexpressible magnitude of the events we will celebrate; a sense of loss for the liturgy that hardly anyone bothers with any longer—the monastery spoiled me forever in this regard; and finally longing . . . for what cannot and should not be spoken.

It may seem paradoxical for someone who is as "ruthlessly realistic" as one friend recently called me in a positive, not a negative way, to want to be so immersed in liturgy and myth. But then, the life of silence seems to the one who does not live it  paradoxical. For the one who "seeks to the beholding" silence cannot help but immerse one in the single movement that is both realistic and mythical. For those who seek there is no distinction, no paradox.

I'm entering this Holy Week already exhausted. The first volume of my book, Silence: A User's Guide, has gone to the publisher; with any luck it will be out in November. This book has been gestating for so many decades that it's almost a let-down that it is now well on its way.

Another reason for exhaustion is that I broke my usual pattern of not going to conferences and went to one in Durham. As conferences go, it had the best papers and discussions of any I have ever been to. It was well worth it. And it was wonderful to be in my favourite of all cathedrals—at least, early in the morning. After 9 AM it was filled with far too many officious "guides" and swarming tourists. Just to put the icing on the cake, they were having "messy cathedral" so the place was often filled with shrieking children. My last day the little chapel where the noon Eucharist was celebrated was so crammed with people intent on not giving anyone an inch of room that I had to leave. At that point I decided to bail. I had to pay double for a rail ticket home (I had come up in a car) but given that I collapsed as soon as I walked in the door, as it were, it was money well spent.

Now I'm transplanting tomatoes and doing other garden chores preparatory to leaving for Devon and Cornwall for ten days. The West Country is always restorative, and our fire on Easter Eve will go a long way towards resurrecting this tired old body.

May all of you, gentle readers, have a most blessed Holy Week and Eastertide.

Last night did Christ the Sun rise from the Dark,
Thy mystic harvest of the fields of God.
And now the little wandering tribes of bees
Are brawling in the scarlet flowers abroad.
The winds are soft with birdsong; all night long
Darkling the nightingale her descant told,
And now inside church doors the happy folk
The Alleluia chant a hundredfold.
O father of thy folk, be thine by right
The Easter joy the threshold of the light.

Sedulius Scottus translated by Helen Waddell

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Fortunate, that one, who, seeing the cherry blossom fall, does not say, 'Time is passing.'"

master basho

3:53 pm, April 12, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

a blessed Holy Week everyone...

12:00 am, April 13, 2014  
Blogger Valerie Stark said...

Being ruthlessly realistic does not preclude the desire for liturgy and myth, which, if well done, nourishes the life of the soul. Unfortunately, so often today, it is not well done and so one weeps.

Blessed Holy Week and Eastertide to you.

4:38 pm, April 13, 2014  
Blogger Joel Watson+ said...

Amen, and again, Amen. yet, "All shall be well...all manner of thing..." Amen.

6:29 pm, April 13, 2014  
Anonymous Barrie said...

For a long time it has seemed to me that liturgy and myth are essential to any attempt at reality. Can I just say with much feeling - Thank God for Helen Waddell.

Barrie

5:57 pm, April 14, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems to me, without a great deal of this "ruthlessly realistic" clarity, in beginning, there is NO assurance that constructing or reconstructing anything will bear good fruit in good time.

There was a fig tree and Jesus, being hungry, went to it ...

mike

5:42 pm, April 15, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read somewhere that myth can be considered as a whisper of something which was once sung aloud and that poetry is a point on this continuum.

9:23 pm, April 15, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,
I went to Holy Thursday Mass this past week. During the homily the priest remarked that we should never separate the Sanctuary from the Street. I found the comment most interesting and it has been rolling around in my mind these last couple of days. Very often, when I do attend mass, I find that something is said or done (or not said or done) which opens me up a little and creates some breathing space. Sometimes I wonder whether we should attend religious services without an expectation of getting anything at all. Perhaps we should focus on what we can offer.
Your encounter, Maggie, with the shrieking children in the church reminded me of Blake's "Holy Thursday" from Songs of Innocence...
Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among
Beneath them sit the aged men wise guardians of the poor
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door

Kevin

6:55 pm, April 19, 2014  
Blogger Amy said...

Maggie,
Thanks for your writing which I discovered through Lauren Winner's Anglican Spirituality class at Duke Divinity. 'Writing the Icon of the Heart: In Silence Beholding' is a new treasure. Excited to read your next book. Silence is such a lost art these days. And now this blog- Grateful that you're continuing to write! As an Episcopal priest, I must admit that I turn to Common Worship for additional blessings, liturgy, etc… and I long for a visit again to your country. Have found a fullness and richness in its words.
A blessed Eastertide-
Amy

4:20 pm, April 21, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the question becomes, Are shrieking children "harmonious thunderings" or are they not?

7:12 pm, April 21, 2014  
Anonymous abigail tingman said...

Yes, I think the children are harmonious thunderings, if we choose to hear them as such. It is the myth/reality marrying again. On Easter, I sat amidst my grown-up, well-mannered family , cheek to jowl with fidgeting youngsters and their fussing moms and grands, listening to a wonderful and welcoming message delivered by our priest, punctuated by the screams of infants and I was utterly happy, perfectly content. This is not always the case, I confess, but the myth married the reality in my soul and bore its fruit. Blessings all. Abigail

4:38 pm, April 22, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wondering if silence can be art or if it is just silence? Can it be lost when all sound is beheld or confronted within it?

What we call art may well be the marriage of no sound with sound; in poetry or music stop is sequenced with motion. One sees with the other. When this achieves a "deliberate" balance, art has begun and meaning is practice.

Perhaps it is useful to say, silence seems/is largely unpracticed now and to wonder just how much of a "change" historically there is in such an assertion!?


mike

3:58 pm, April 23, 2014  
Anonymous abigail tinghman said...

Mike :Like the scripture before the spacing between words, or the dividing into chapter and verse, the silence in between is very important, very useful. Without it, we babble in endless streams of lesser meaning. However, I think we should be mindful not to make silence an idol. Silence is, for me anyway, a byproduct of stillness, and outwardly, I cannot require it of my environment in order to be still. I think we can create our own silence somehow, through our being still. It's a theory anyway. Bless, a.t.

12:55 am, April 25, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Abigail,

re: creating silence.

Have you ever been in a big cave where no light is present and there is no (other than self generated) sound at all?

Perhaps silence is fundamental to the structure of Being and we are the byproduct.

in this blessing,
mike

10:22 pm, April 25, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from A Sunlit Absence by Marin Laird.

"For the mind that is silent, noise is as direct a spoke into the hub of silence as are birdsong, wind and wave. It requires nothing more than to meet noise with stillness and not commentary."

"A practice of contemplation is chiseling away thought shackled illusion of separation from God" and (it) "does not work by means of addition or acquisition."

"because it is not I who look / but I who am being looked through. Gloria." R.S. Thomas

Thus, how can stillness, in the face of silence or noise, not be ordinary, a simple measure of respect?

7:27 pm, April 28, 2014  

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