Holy Week is about boundaries being broken down. Boundaries of space and time and more.
Last night as I prayed at the altar of repose I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, looking out (as I did in when I was in Israel/Palestine in January) from that garden back across the Kidron Valley to the wall around Jerusalem, to the East Gate just below where the Temple used to be.
In the Kidron valley is an enormous and ancient Jewish graveyard, placed there so that on the last day the dead could rise and walk through the gate straight into the Temple. And I was aware that, as Jesus was praying for the cup to be removed, he did so overlooking thatgraveyard, in the presence of all that death. But also in the presence of the hope of the last day when they would rise.
This year as I did Stations of the Cross (because it had only been a couple of months since I’d been in Jerusalem) I would remember what the actual places looked like. So rather than meditate on the actual stations that we have in the nave, I would think about those real places—sometimes even closing my eyes—and picture them during the readings.
So I imagined Ecce Homo (the Convent of the Sisters of Zion) built on the spot where Pilate said, “Behold the man,” and the various places where Jesus fell, and the place where Jesus met his mother, and especially those places in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which contains the last five stations: Jesus stripped of his garments; Jesus nailed to the cross; Jesus
dies on the cross; Jesus is taken down from the cross; and Jesus is placed in the tomb.
And in that way the stations became what they are always supposed to be—a way to collapse the space between Jerusalem and Seattle, and the time between two millennia ago and now.
On Tuesday afternoon I’d been making notes for this homily, but I was on an exceptionally comfortable chair, and I was exhausted, so before I knew it, I was out, and I dreamed I was in Jerusalem with my brother. My brother died a little over seven years ago, and he, like many people, had been wounded by religion.
So in the dream I had a lot of complicated thoughts about having him with me in Jerusalem. When I asked him if he would be willing to come see the Christian sites in Jerusalem with me, then, I was excited that he said yes.
As he got ready to go I went into the other room where I saw my Mom (who I realized later wasn’t really my mom, but the Blessed Mother) and I said, “Chris is coming with me to see the sites!”
She was happy about this and we talked about what he would think, not only about the sites themselves, but about the liturgies we would celebrate there and my preaching on Good Friday and at the Vigil. Because in my dream we were in Jerusalem and it was Holy Week.
We were going to the sites and celebrating the Holy Week liturgies. And the liturgies that I pictured were a rich mixture of what we are doing at St. Paul’s mixed with the Latin, Byzantine, Coptic, and Armenian rites you would find in Jerusalem.
In my dream the saints and the living and the dead would be worshiping in Jerusalem which was also Seattle, and all of that was ONE thing.
I woke up slowly and I could feel my waking mind sorting out the dream: I’m not in Jerusalem; I’d be preaching and participating in the Holy Week liturgies here in Seattle; the woman was my mom, not Mary; and my brother is dead.
My waking mind pulled apart that beautiful and holy thing that had been one.
And this is what I really want to say tonight. My waking mind is a big liar, and my dream was right.
In all true liturgy, boundaries are collapsed: boundaries of space and time and more.
So tonight the space between Jerusalem and here is collapsed, and the time between 33AD and 2019 is collapsed.
In all true liturgy, anything—any boundary—that separates us from unity with Christ is also collapsed. And I don’t mean that abstractly.
We’re about to stand and pray the Solemn Collects and in them act as Christ the High Priest interceding to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit for the liberation of the Church and the World from Death in all its forms. In this Christ and we are one.
And after that a cross will be brought into the nave and that cross will be on Calvary—on Golgotha. And we will climb Calvary, approach Golgotha and the cross, not just to see what Christ has done for us and the world, but to become one with him in it, so that that cross becomes not just his, but ours, which is why we touch it, why we kiss it, and in whatever way possible, climb up on it and make it our own.
And more—we go into the tomb, with him and as him.
We know that we’re on the way to resurrection, but jumping too quickly there without that confrontation with Death can risk Easter becoming something sentimental.
Death is real. And tonight we enter into the reality of Death itself, taking all of our experience with Death: all the suffering, the sickness, the addiction, the anxiety, the oppression, the injustice, the poverty and insecurity and debt, the hiding of our true selves made in the image of God—all of it, right to the cross, right into the tomb, and confront it there with and as Christ.
Tonight the Church invites us to let the boundaries between time and space, and between us and Christ, collapse. Not just so we can be there and then, but so that there and then can be here. Not just so that we can be in Jerusalem in 33AD, but so that Christ can confront Death in Seattle in 2019.