Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!



Ref: Hallelujah! We sing your praises,
All our hearts are filled with gladness,
Hallelujah! We sing your praises,
All our hearts are filled with gladness.

1. Christ the Lord to us said,
I am wine, I am bread,
I am wine, I am bread,
Give to all who thirst and hunger.

Ref: Hallelujah! We sing your praises,
All our hearts are filled with gladness,
Hallelujah! We sing your praises,
All our hearts are filled with gladness.

2. Now he sends us all out,
Strong in faith, free of doubt,
Strong in faith, free of doubt,
Tell to all the joyful Gospel.

Ref: Hallelujah! We sing your praises,
All our hearts are filled with gladness,
Hallelujah! We sing your praises,
All our hearts are filled with gladness.

--Lyrics, "Haleluja, Pelo Tsa Rona," (English translation,) South African hymn

(Note: If you haven't read part 1 of this story, you can find it here.)

I went to bed crying on Saturday, and found myself awakening in tears...but again, it was not "pure grief." It was a mixture. Some of it was simply release over the day before...but that feel of "resurrection" was still in it. Easter morning.

I'm going to be up front. Easter morning for me has always been "in my head." Nothing spectacular has ever happened on me on Easter morning, and the most vivid Easter morning memory I have is quite mixed--a few years ago, Easter fell on my birthday, and my "present" was that the 26 year old Shetland pony I was keeping for a former employee lay dead in the pasture of old age!

So it's an understatement to say I don't have high expectations for Easter, heart-wise.

Oh, I enjoy Easter. I am particularly grateful I don't have to wear the über-frilly, über-feminine outfits my mother forced upon me as a child. (I can still hear my grandmother telling my mother, "Can't you see she's MISERABLE in that get-up?") I enjoy the return of joyful music, the return of the "Alleluia!" and the colors of spring and new life around the sanctuary. But I've never felt Easter.

I spent my whole early morning crying off and on. Crying not just over the death of John, but for the life of John--recalling more old stories and adventures. John had been increasingly ill the last 15 years of his life, and I noticed an acceleration of something that started happening when I was sitting vigil with him. I had a time on Saturday night I recalled a funny, albeit meaningless story about John--the time he had roaches in his house and he was so frustrated at them peeking out their little roach heads, that instead of him placing boric acid pellets out for the roaches, he started throwing them at the roaches...and he actually hit and killed one with a boric acid tablet! I remember laughing so hard, I was on the floor, and John was yelling at me, "Well, I'm glad you think it's funny! These damn roaches are taking over my house!"

I continued to laugh even harder, replying, "Well, John, if you'd just clean your damn house, maybe you wouldn't have the roaches! I mean, I'm messy, but I don't leave old food and shit lying around for them to eat!" Then he got a sheepish grin and said, "Well, yeah, I guess so."

But even more stories like that started flooding my mind, and suddenly it hit me:

The resurrected John is the old, young John.

Overnight, the John in my mind had been transformed. I was stunned at how over the years, the John in my mind was identifiable by his illnesses--housebound, diabetic, John with the most awful case of psoriasis I ever saw, hands grotesquely bent by rheumatoid arthritis. The John I was now remembering was the John who traveled as he pleased, hiked the woods, and yelled at to put his shirt back on b/c he had more hair on his chest and shoulders that I have ever seen on a human being. "Active, vibrant, full of life John" had taken a powder in my mind for many years--I had almost forgotten him. But there he was, in all his glory--returned from the grave of his illnesses and frailties.

Anamnesis strikes again.

Bang. Another moment where memory of past, present, and future literally implode on themselves and forge themselves into a white-hot mass of "holy stuff."

More tears. This time, tears of gratitude for the insight--an insight that was leading to this gnawing feeling that was telling me, "You are supposed to pay attention in church in a special way today."

I knew I had to "pay attention" more than usual--I was slated to be acolyte. When I arrived at church, I told her a little bit about the events of the day before, and although once again a few tears were leaking out, a smile crossed my face, and I said, "I saw a really holy thing last night. I mean, I have been around plenty deathbeds, because of my training, and the deathbeds of relatives. But this was new and different in a lot of ways."

She smiled. "When I have attended deaths," she said, "I've always felt honored. There's an awe in that place between this world and the next."

I was the one who got to carry the lit Paschal candle in the procession. It just seemed "right," given all the times I sit by my chiminea fire, as well as the time I made my own Paschal candle for my home "prayer corner." I thought about how we all carry the Light of Christ to each other in the most unexpected ways, and how I had been one of the helpers in that for John. During the sermon, there were some references to the women sitting at the foot of the cross, tending the body, and visiting the tomb, and I felt the tears coming down my face again, hooking me back to sitting vigil the night before.

But it was when we did the Asperges that it all slammed home.

We were all singing the song I embedded above, and as the acolyte, it was my job to hold the container of holy water. Our priest was joyfully flipping holy water into the pews, with one of the happiest looks on her face I've ever seen. Equally joyful were the faces and voices being sprinkled, and as I started cueing in on all the faces, a wave of incredible joy swept me in a way I can't ever recall feeling. It was just so marvelous to be in this place, in this moment. It was like those feelings of implosion I felt earlier had reached critical mass, and had performed nuclear fusion, expanding all over the room and swallowing up everyone in it, and I was an expanding, growing piece of a thing so big, all I could do was ride it like a rapid.

When she had finished sprinkling everyone in the pews, she turned towards me, and I sort of put my hands out in the orans position, shrugged, and grinned this, "Dare ya to hit me," look. An incredibly impish grin crossed our priest's face--she had the look of a kid holding a snowball, cogitating a passing car going by--and then she wiggled the evergreen branch like a cat twitching its tail, cocked her head, grinned even more, then reared back and simply SPLATTERED me. I had spots on my glasses. I had a big wet spot on my alb.

Then I simply threw back my head and laughed. Laughed so loud and long, folks in the sanctuary had to wonder what happened. I laughed because I was alive, and not only was I seeing resurrection, I was drenched in it, and I was part of it.

As I returned to my place on the chancel, it hit me.

The operative word is splattered.

All my life, it seems it has been God's tendency not to inch me into places of holiness and light, but to splatter me. Perhaps it is because I am a little slow on the uptake sometimes. Perhaps it is because the extroverted half of me is so big and bold at times, and the introverted half of me is so wounded and closed at others. But my "God experiences" have definitely not been of the "try three bites and see if you like it," type. They are almost always loud and splashy and bold and carry a boisterous-ness about them...and it is only after the loud, splashy moment that I tend to even allow the quiet moment, the gentle moment with God. It is like I need the completely powerless moment for the next step in my spiritual journey to occur. That's true with the "bad moments" in my life, too--there is a true despair and devastation I seem to have to feel first before the healing commences.

But praise God, I was splattered--and for once in my life, I simply held out my hands in the orans position and said, "Bring it on!" rather than throwing up an arm to protect my glasses.

I had a very revealing conversation with my dear blog friend Elizabeth as I was working on how to formulate the words to blog this post and the previous one. I had been thinking about this in light of a recent homily I heard our Bishop give. He talked about the significance of "Jacob's wrestling match," how these wrestlings and reconciliations in our lives--like the final reconciliation between Jacob and Esau--are affairs that leave us changed, limping, and not always happily ever after--but leave us with a sense of enough, with a contentment that never wears out and lasts a lifetime. The things that had been happening in my life certainly weren't happy--but they were enough.

As Elizabeth and I chatted, she pointed out to me the origin of the root word "blessed." There is no direct translation in ancient Greek. It comes from an Old English word, that was mis-appropriated from an Old German word, "Bletsian", which means "bloodied." It originally referred to pagan blood sacrifices, and later came to mean the blood sacrifices of the Hebrew Bible. The English had goofed up some of the letters, and we turned "bloodied," into "blessing," and "bliss."

I came to realize, that for me, I tend not to notice things until I am bloodied--something indelible has to happen to me, whether that something is good or bad--and often, it is something intensely bad or difficult that is the forerunner of the best. My tendency is to avoid unpleasant things--even to the point of closing myself down. My tendency is to believe "intense," means "bad"--yet when I choose to get wet, I paradoxically don't go in a toe at a time. My tendency is to pace the pool obsessively, back and forth, back and forth--then finally go, "What the hell?" and cannonball right into the deep end.

So why should it surprise me that God chooses for me in a similar fashion?

I found myself singing the "Hallelujah, we sing your praises," song over and over all the way home. I still don't know what this experience is meant to mean--I don't know what it is meant to be in my life and how it connects with what lies before me. But I knew one thing--I had finally, after 51 years on this planet--truly lived Easter.

7 comments:

Thank you, Maria. This was a beautiful thing to read first thing this morning. And love the song!

Thank you for this - thank you. That is all that I can say - thank you.

I can't say much more than "Thank you." Thank you for opening up as you did here. And showing us how to be open to the Spirit's breaking in.
I can vividly see you with that "I dare you" look before being splattered with the waters of baptism.
Are you familiar with John Donne's sonnet, Batter my heart? One of my favorites. I think he understands just what you mean here.

Thank you all.

Lisa, I would say, "Yeah, it's like that...'cept John Donne used more flowery words...and fewer of 'em than I did!

Indeed, Maria. Your "splatter me" surely wins the contest for brevity. :-)

I definitely got splattered at Trinity that morning, and not just cause the Vicar enjoys the asperges quite a bit. It was a particularly deep Easter for me too for no identifiable reason. Both parts one and two were beautifully written.

Judging from the facial expressions in the pews, there was a LOT of "splattering" going on, not just with H2O, but with the Waters of our Baptism!

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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