A few years ago I was able to spend the week before Easter reading Scripture and praying in a more focused way than usual. It was 2011, my personal annus mirabilis, the year when I finally accepted the idea that God accepted me. Every day for months, I heard new truth and wrote it down. From Fortress to Freedom is the compilation of the first forty of those writings, and the fortieth came just before Holy Week. I kept writing daily, and on the night of Maundy Thursday that year I was awake most of the night, praying, meditating, and writing. Here are some of the words from that night.
I am feasting more on His word, but this is not a joyful feast. This is bread, not of affliction, for that is His alone on this day, but of reflection. I take small bites and chew slowly, considering all the flavor and texture that I can find.
Earlier this morning, when I got to verse 31 of Matthew 26, I had to stop. My hands moved on their own to cover the text, to prevent my eyes from seeing what was next. In my mind flashed the image (from a movie, not an image of my own experience) of a mother reading the letter delivered by men in uniform, emerging from a dark sedan, the letter whose contents she already knows, has long dreaded, but cannot bear to see. This is the first time I have come to Holy Week as an adult, as the woman I am, as the mother of men. It is a blessing and challenge to be here in this way. I am deeply grateful.
I’ve moved further through the story now. So many details I see now, since my eyes have been opened to see Him as a man, fully human, and as I imagine the events from that angle. For the first time, I’ve seen His caution to the disciples as originating with self-awareness. Often as a parent I tell my children things that I know are true because I have experienced them; I try to caution them before they reach obstacles that tripped me up. I think a similar dynamic may have been at work in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus pleaded with his three closest friends to watch and pray, so that they would not enter temptation. I think He was facing temptation there as He prayed. I’d never thought of it that way, but it would have been sin for Christ to reject what God had sent Him to do.
That changes my view of the whole story. I’ve always been grateful that He did not leave, or give up, or blow up the place, but that has been a response to His mercy, His love, His patience with us, as God went through what man would not. This new realization makes me aware that man, at least one Man, could do the right thing in every circumstance, and He did. It was not only God going through the Passion, driven by His love for us. It was a man, a single, lonely, abandoned man, completely surrendered to the will of God.
And I am called to do likewise.