Friday, April 10, 2009

the Story is in the Story

Have you ever reflected upon the meaning of the sequence of Holy Week? One can say that it is perhaps the story at the very center of the Christian’s life. And because we process life through the categories of narratives and sequences, it is within the story-structure of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday that we can engage our own stories in such a way that the meaning we create around our experience of life is reflective of truth, goodness and beauty.

The three stages of the narrative fit together, and indeed cannot be separated. Good Friday invites us to be present, obedient and selfless in our broken state. The narratives of death are to be reflected upon and not forgotten, for if we do not return to these stories, our sense of identity and ability to hold a complete view of the world is diminished. This day asks us to stop, grieve, and take on the faithfulness of Jesus. In doing so our capacity for holding the truth of the life and death of the world can only be expanded.

Holy Saturday bears the invitation to embrace mystery and live in the paradox between death and life, this is the day of the "already and not yet." In regards to our experience of life, we are invited to name the death in our story and also to say that death does not have the final word. This is the rejection of the false binary offered to us in either nihilistic despair that says death is all there is or escapist optimism that rushes to redemption. It is the space in the narrative template of the Triduum that helps us access meaning in this life in a way that few other narratives do.

Similarly, Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, making him the Lord of Life, an element so sweet only because he truly suffered and bore a tortuous death on what we remember as Good Friday and lay lifeless in the cold, damp tomb on Holy Saturday. The sequence bears meaning- as much significance as the events themselves; and they offer a narrative template through which we can begin to make sense of our experience of life and find meaning through such reflection.

But we are for the most part unaware of the sequence. We don't really stop on Good Friday, most churches hurriedly tell that portion on Sunday morning, with the certainty of immanent resurrection. The rush to redemption, characteristic modern evangelical theology and the half-hour sitcom alike, is what flows out of a narrative that is dismissive of experiences of death and avoidant of experiences that hold the ambiguity of waiting. The implications of such a one-dimensional narrative of redemption has long reaching effects on the way we are as people, with each other, in this world. Not only does it turn Resurrection Sunday into a sacrine-like sweetness, but we begin to normalize the ideal and we diminish our capacity to meaningfully engage that which is less. When resurrection is a certain given, we exist in a false utopia that does violence to our experience and the realities of life in this world.

The narrative sequence of the Triduum can be a structural template and hermeneutical lens for life and meaningful engagment in the world. I am aware of how it has led me into deeper presence, grief and hope in regards to my own story, and in that, I suppose this is an invitation to deeper awareness of the structure of this weekend as you enter it. How will you mark it, comemorate and live into it?


Aaron said...

i have spent the entire day (Good Friday) on an airplane and am now sitting in a quiet, sterile hotel room working on a paper of school. i've been lamenting that easter, for me, this year will be spent on airplanes, in a hotel, and in isolation. but in the midst of this disappointment, i thank you for drawing me into the story of easter (you really did) and allowing me to engage (even if for a few moments) and see myself in the Triduum and it in me.

i long to be able to live in the grief of Good Friday, the tension of Holy Saturday, and the hope of Easter Sunday-- each year in holy week, and each season of life that reflects each part of this story.

i woke up heavy-hearted this morning that we remember our saviour crucified, and was surprised (although i shouldn't have been) to read many "happy easter!" declarations over facebook... indeed, we are too quick to rush to the 'riding off into the sunset' part and miss the entire plot along the way.

you've said it much better than i could have said it myself... and thanks again.

Anonymous said...

such rich words!
i've missed focusing on holy saturday... especially in light of it being the "already, not yet"... the waiting, the awesome awful tension.
life certainly is filled with these fridays saturdays and thankfully sundays.

thinking and praying for you 5 as you finish up the 9 month wait!