And we talk lectionary. That's what we call ourselves, a lectionary group. Only... mostly, the time we actually spend on the readings and our sermon plans can range anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes of our 60-75 minute total. The rest of the time we would more accurately be known as what they call a "peer supervision" group. Which means we tell stories.
Oh, we keep confidentiality and all that good stuff. We get the seriousness of all that. But we do tell stories. And we laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Not at people. More like, at us. At how we do or do not live into being the pastors we really would like to be. At how the diet thing is going. At how we did (or did not) nail that prayer, at that particularly delicate moment. We laugh. And that is very good for us. (It also causes the occasional patron to stop by our table on the way out and say, as one woman did yesterday, "Next time I want to be at your table." Her husband shrugged and went out to the gift shop.)
This week, one of our number said, "Hey, I heard this thing. Did you know the Wednesday of Holy Week is called 'Spy Wednesday'"? (I did, thanks to a Jesuit poet I had the pleasure of knowing and reading in college.) Then we needed to make sure we knew the names of all the days in Holy Week.
"Monday's the day Jesus cleansed the temple," I piped up helpfully.
"So, Pissed-Off Monday?" one of my colleagues suggested.
|Icon of Christ the Bridegroom, from the Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha Website.|
Actually, it's "Great and Holy Monday," according to that fount of knowledge, Wikipedia. But here's the really fascinating thing I've learned in the aftermath of our conversation: In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the matins (i.e., very early morning) services are the Services of Christ the Bridegroom. Which, given that this week has seen many of us hanging on every word that proceeds from the mouths of nine Supreme Court Justices on the subject of whether there might be room in the constitution for a marriage composed of either two bridegrooms or two brides, is kind of interesting.
And behold, a 9th century hymn of Saint Cassia, an imaginative entering into the story of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus at the end of Luke chapter 7:
O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gather into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."
The gospels, of course, are earthy accounts of an earthly ministry (well, 3 out of the 4). Jesus talks about seeds and soil and weddings and sheep and banquets and sweeping up... and about the heat of flames and the digestive system, too. And he touches people and they touch him, and the ways in which they touch him, let us be frank, before they are appalling, are fascinatingly sensuous. Women touch his feet. (Shall we have an excursus on feet in scripture? Perhaps another day...) They bathe them with tears, they kiss them and dry them with their (long, unbound) hair, they pour expensive oils on them. It's all very... bodily.
So if anyone's trying to make an argument that Christ the Bridegroom is purely and simply about a theological and spiritual concept, I call hogwash and say, Jesus was a human who knew all about being human, the good and the bad, the painful and the pleasurable. And even a prayer that purports to be about trying to get away from a 'dark and moonless love of sin' ends up being pretty darned erotic. (Even that phrase... dark and moonless. Heavens.)
So, this week we all got to watch as church and state got all up in one another's faces, and people tried to discern where religious freedom ends and civil rights begin, and whether losing the right to oppress people constitutes being oppressed.
You probably know which side I'm rooting for. I'm even going to suggest I know which side the Bridegroom is rooting for: the side that is for love.