Thursday, April 5, 2012

Snared in Time

Got my necessities packed for the next few days. I am staying in Manhattan at Our Lady of Sorrows Friary this evening after attending the Holy Thursday service with the parish. Tomorrow morning I am walking the Way of the Cross with Pax Christi Metro New York, gathering with my fellow sojourners at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza by the United Nations and proceeding to the West Side via 42nd Street. I will return to Our Lady of Sorrows at midday for the parish's memorial of the Seven Last Words of Jesus, followed by their own Good Friday procession. In the mid-afternoon I will travel to Babylon and meet up with my brother Nicholas and join him at Our Lady of Grace Parish, where he will be a lector for the commemoration of the Lord's Passion. Holy Saturday will be spent in what I hope is pensive silence, to be broken wide open by the alleluias of the Easter Vigil at Our Lady of Grace. On Easter Sunday I will relax with my family and aim to feast well in both body and spirit.

What all these services and devotions have in common is a re-enactment, a re-presentation, a re-membering of the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth and a meditation on its significance in the economy of salvation. After all, disciples believe that all of Jesus' words and works, his total being and doing, have accomplished the salvation, redemption, and reconciliation of the human race with God and one another. We are not saved by the Cross alone -- given that the Jesus' crucifixion came from the sin of the world, one might say we are saved despite the Cross, or in spite of it -- but neither are we saved without it. This is the supreme paradox of faith, the aching aspect of the paschal mystery, and one with which every disciple must struggle.

What do the rituals of Easter teach Christians about how to live as followers of the risen Jesus? Do we ever stop to consider what the rituals themselves are "doing" to disciples who seek earnestly to live a life like that of the one confessed to be so fully human that he is also fully divine, a son of God? Do our Easter celebrations free us to live as persons transformed in Christ to be holy priests, prophets, and servants of the reign of God? Or do they unintentionally leave us frozen in our broken, unjust times and useless violent ways, destined unwittingly to repeat the cycle of sin and suffering that Jesus came to shatter forever? For one thoughtful, culturally engaged opinion, I recommend this essay from a friend studying ecclesiology at Boston University School of Theology.


It is unlikely I will be posting tomorrow, Good Friday, or on Holy Saturday. Perhaps on Easter Sunday. Until then, let me share one more piece from The Pilgrim, which I think is appropriate for both the day of the Lord's Passion as well as the middle day between Cross and Resurrection.

In the Liturgy of the Hours during Lent, the responsory following the Scripture reading at morning prayer is "God himself will set me free, from the hunter's snare." I have often thought about what the hunter's snare is. Here is one possibility, which Kevin Walker describes below.


by Kevin Walker

The state of homelessness makes planning virtually impossible as time is simply suspended. What exists is the immediate present -- and nothing else. Tonight I have to find a new place to sleep, but that's tonight -- might as well be a million years away. Today I'll be lugging a 30-lb. backpack from the Boston Public Library to Harvard Square and back again, and anything can happen, bad or good, at any moment. Run-ins, confrontations and accostments are the norm for the homeless. Something as simple as going for a meal might turn into a traumatic event for you or your property. You try to survive on a minute-by-minute basis in the "now."

And as you drift and survive your homelessness, and time becomes suspended and hangs in mid-air, the days become compartmentalized -- individual time boxes totally separated from one another and without relevance. That's the reason homelessness lasts so long: you fall into a time trap. A whole month has passed. Then two months, three months, then guess what? A whole year, and there's been no change in your situation. Can you remember last year? You can't remember yesterday. The homeless dimension is a space/time continuum that would have stumped Von Planck, Lord Rutherford and Al Einstein: none of these ever contemplated time as a non-moving entity. In the homeless universe it moves neither forward nor backward, but there is plenty of entropy. Like Sisyphus rolling the boulder uphill only to have it roll back down again for him to repeat the process, there is plenty of room in homelessness for negative things to happen but no sense of time to correct the problem.

The time trap of homelessness extends into days, weeks, months, then years as you are totally oblivious to anything beyond your immediate concerns, your immediate survival -- now and not fifteen minutes from now. And since time will not allow you to be in two places at once, you can't simultaneously be standing in line for food and attending a job interview. You must make a choice: eat or look for a job.

So I begin my day when I can pack my bag undetected at 5 o'clock in the morning, and get out onto the sidewalk still in the moonlight. It's now 5:30 a.m., pitch black, freezing cold, and nothing opens until 9 a.m. Four hours. The day has just begun and already you have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no money to do it with. Time to kill before you go somewhere to kill more time -- meal program, drop-in shelter or employment agency. You realize that tomorrow might be the same as today, but tomorrow is far away. There's only today: dark and frozen, hanging in space.


From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” -- which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:45-46

There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him. Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus.He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

Matthew 27:55-61

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