It has been a long Holy Week already (we’ve had two services daily so far), and there’s more to come. Last night’s 3-hour service, with readings of twelve passion Gospels, struck me as especially grueling.
But I was blind-sided emotionally at the singing of the Beatitudes during the Royal Hours this morning.
Whether because of my emotional make-up, a longstanding distrust of religious emotionalism, or the discipline of actually serving services instead of just participating, that doesn’t happen often.
As is often the case, it’s difficult or impossible to articulate a feeling. This one probably emerged from the accumulation of impressions of the week combined with something I passed along earlier in the week.
The judgment of God is revealed in Holy Week. The crucified Christ is the fullness of the revelation of God. There is no further revelation to be made known, no unveiling of a wrath to come. The crucified Christ is what the wrath of God looks like.
[I]n the judgment of God, His own love is shown to be what it truly is – self-sacrificing, forgiving, relentless in its mercy. It is not a love that pronounces forgiveness from the Cross only to pronounce destruction on another occasion. The crucified Christ is not a revelation that is succeeded by another.
So this morning, there we stood, singing such things as “Blessed are the meek” in the presence of a large icon of
Christ, hanging on the cross the wrath of God:
That’s not my little church, by the way. We’ll take that icon down from the cross this afternoon at 3 pm and put a cloth version in a symbolic tomb — one being decorated with carnations and other flowers by some folks at Church as I write this.
Add to that, we earlier in the week were greeted each time we entered Church by the icon of our most improbable “Bridegroom”:
This icon, the Nympios or Bridegroom, is also sometimes called “extreme humility.”
So what hit me this morning was roughly “this is not Christianity as I misunderstood it for nearly fifty years.”
Then tears of gratitude welled up that I was privileged to serve these grueling Holy Week services. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)