horror penetrates our bones but at the same time there is joy...

What a challenging week: it is one that will only grow more complex
with each passing day.
It started for me with a profound healing taking place in the small body of Louie after he had moved perilously close to death. It continued with pastoral meetings, midday Eucharist and a long drive in the rain to Ottawa. At the border, I encountered the future as immigration officers puzzled over whether to allow me entrance. Ours is now an era of fear, loathing, and intimidation. Clearly the Canadians were only reciprocating the dismantling of trust the US started. I understand that you can't put the jinn back in the bottle once it has been opened. Nevertheless, it was a shocking encounter with powerlessness that will become normative until a still to be disclosed time in the future.

The week ripened into a day of walkabout in Ottawa with both jazz and blues in the evening. Then I settled into the rhythm of prayer and writing for Holy Week and was able to complete both my Easter homily as well as a short reflection for Palm Sunday. There was an afternoon of music therapy with my friends at L'Arche Ottawa - and supper with the community, too - then a chance encounter will local blues man, John Carroll, and the joy of hearing another set of his most excellent songs. Just as I was about to depart, my cell phone informed me that the US had started to bomb Syria.

I am currently reading Peter Matthiessen's novel, In Paradise, about a retreat to bear witness at Auschwitz conducted by an international group of spiritual pilgrims. It is sobering and stark - every bit as horribly real as I remember my pilgrimage to that place of death - and Matthiessen offers no simple answers or pious promises about redemption. It is achingly insightful with glimpses of both beauty and anguish woven throughout the text. 

One particularly vexing encounter involves the chanting of prayers in the crematorium that morphs into an ecstatic dance for life led by one of the rabbis.  Soon, most of the pilgrims are dancing together under the sway of the Spirit, while a few stare in disgust and others flee in condemnation. Afterwards, no one quite understands what happened. Or why? They are baffled that there could be dancing at Auschwitz - and that somehow it could feel like prayer, confession, and forgiveness all at the same time.

(The protagonist, Clements Olin) is relieved that so many others will testify to 'something not known to anyone at all but wild in our breast for centuries' (a favorite line from an Akhmatova poem)...with the advent of this something-not-known (which he scarcely dares consider lest it vanish) the metastasizing animosities among the witness bearers are dissolving, as if the Dancing were sealing their acceptance of all woe-begone humankind in all its greed and cruelties as the only creature capable of evil and the only one - surely these two are connected - aware that it must die... "Horror penetrates our bones but at the same time there is joy" says the daughter of an SS doctor. "Who would have expected joy at Auschwitz?"  (pp. 167-9)

In my soul it feels as if the part of creation I know and live within is not only about to celebrate Holy Week, but is living out a 21st century, 1984 version of it on steroids. It is a time when horror penetrates while at the same time joy ascends. One preacher, Karoline Lewis, wrote:

More than ever, we need to empower people to read the biblical texts and give witness to what they have seen and know. We need to embolden our one another to speak out and speak up when we see the Bible being used in ways it was never meant to be. We need to encourage those who come to worship to trust that their encounters with the living God are just as valuable as those whose voices seem louder. We need to enable the faithful to call out decisions, executive orders and behaviors that do not line up with the God we have encountered in Jesus. And we need to endow people with power for proclamation, to pronounce loudly and boldly their own Palm/Passion Sunday witness.

And now begins my generation's descent into Jerusalem...
 

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