Entering with reverence
Every priest as part of their preparation for ordination, has to complete a hospital chaplaincy internship -- ten or eleven weeks spent visiting and being with hospitalized people and their families. It is big and holy and hard work-- powerful and formative too-- but hard. It can be special growing close with your chaplain peers and your mentors, getting to know the nurses and care providers other staff and feeling yourself become more familiar and comfortable walking up and down the halls of your assigned units.
But one of the things we practiced a lot, though, is embodying a certain level of care and caution in how you carry yourself, in your body language, in how you're interacting out on the floor knowing that there were patients who were dealing with the hardest thing that would ever happen to them, or who were carrying a grief that didn't even have a name yet. We had to learn to wonder how would it feel to hear your chaplain guffawing in the hallway ten seconds after your hourlong conversation, or how would it feel to overhear twenty minutes of loud chitchat right outside your door while you were still trying to wrap your brain around what the doctor told you this morning?
In many ways, the encouragement we hear on Palm Sunday echoes what we were taught as hospital chaplains. Palm Sunday is the precipice on which we stand, before us, the door to an unknown suffering, and only to be entered with meek heart and due reverence. It can feel like misplaced advice however when the Palm Sunday liturgy--in many places is shaped like a parade with horns and music and processions and donkeys and little palm fronds to wave in the air. It can feel misplaced when we leave church today and just,,, head back to work or school or wherever tomorrow. It can feel like misplaced advice when we know how the story ends, when we know what the prognosis is, when know that just seven days from now there will be a resurrection.
I want to offer that our encouragement to enter into Holy Week with care, with trepidation, with reverence, is not only for the sake of the story of Christ's Passion but because it is how we are called to move through the world. We know that this is a tragedy with a twist ending, but all around in our community, in this town, in the world, are people for whom Holy Week is not a liturgy but a lived reality. You will go to work and school and to Wegman's and wherever else end up tomorrow and the next day, but this reality of Holy Week will go with you and I would encourage you step lightly -- not only because the color is purple this week but because this is a fragile and broken and hurting world. In just seven days, we will roll the stone away, so to speak and see that this tragedy was a temporary one. I would encourage you to come back to St. George's for our Holy Week services on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Don't just come back for the celebration, but come back for the hard stuff too and know that Christians, at our best, are not known as the ones who can find joy in the midst of so much turmoil, but might just be the ones who are unafraid of recognizing suffering in the world, who don't avoid it but who go towards it, offering our help in shouldering the burden.
I hope that you have a lovely and holy and reverent holy week, and I hope in the midst of it, you can find just a little bit of courage to be all the more present in a world that reflects it.