Monday Muse: Thursday is Advent, Friday is Christmas

Yesterday, on June 1, my soul gasped and took a breath of fresh air. On June 1, I remembered that life is full of possibility and hope for renewal. On June 1, I knew that I could revel in joy with every minute of the day.

Why? Because June 1 — and not only June 1, but also May 1 and April 1 and the start of every month — is a resurrection day. It’s pay day!

I love the liturgical year, the cycle of seasons and stories of faith, with each Sunday’s worship marking the progression toward and through the holy days, retelling with each year the plot of God’s love affair with the world. Yet over the past year of my new job, I confess I’ve been paying less attention to the liturgical seasons and more attention to the daily seasons of the American work week: the reluctance of Monday, the almost-there-eagerness of Thursday, the rush of the weekend … and the pure relief of payday.

While the Church marks the liturgical year in fifty-two weeks, the corporate work week gives us its own liturgical cycle in seven days! It’s prompted me to look creatively at how the Christian liturgical year might be expressed within the span of a work week.

Though liturgical purists may decry the following rearrangement of holy seasons and holidays, I wonder how an awareness of the seven-day “liturgical” work cycle might inform and encourage our faith with its new perspective on the seasons of our sacred lives.

  • Monday is Lent, the day when humanity feels hard, the season when we confess what has been done and what has been left undone. Monday reminds us that the world is incessant, that God is demanding, and that we are finite. In Lent as on Mondays, we recommit to the work (or we wrestle with guilt for slacking).
  • Tuesday and Wednesday are Ordinary Time, the longest and frankly least dramatic liturgical season (and days). The Gospel readings in Ordinary Time chart the stories of Jesus’ earthly ministry: healing here, teaching there, walking from town to city, doing the dusty everyday work of God, checking emails, writing reports, meeting people, staffing conference calls, chit-chatting in the copier room, and more. Ordinary Time, ordinary days, ordinary work…and the importance of God within it all, no matter how mundane or uneventful.
  • Thursday is Advent. (Stay with me, purists. I know that I’m bucking every fiber of fondness that you hold for these time-honored, sacred rhythms.) Thursday holds all of Advent’s suspense, the anticipation of coming joy, the hope that surges within us while waiting for The Hope, the rekindling of awareness that time is moving toward something promising.

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  • Ah, Friday! Friday is Christmas. Friday is the day when Joy wakes us up in the morning and sustains us even beyond that first cup of coffee. Friday is the day when the flesh feels redeemed and revived, like the beauty of God in the flesh of an infant. Because it is still a work day, Friday is fleeting and like Christmas Day it refuses to linger, yet still it overflows…
  • …into the luxurious surprise of Saturday, the day of Epiphany, the space in the work week when we have the opportunity to be revealed for who we are in God beyond our paychecks: our gifts, our creativities, our passions, our recreations, our families, even our stillness. Every Saturday is an opportunity for new paths of discovery and new stars of revelation that will shape how we live in the work week to come.
  • Sunday is a complicated holy day in the seven-day liturgical cycle, because the usual activity of worship invites us to engage the community spirit of Pentecost … but the impending work week hovers to crush that very spirit. So I would speculate that Sunday is our weekly Ascension Day: that obscure (to some of us Protestants) holiday when we are awed by heaven yet called to tear our eyes away from glory in order to return to work.
  • And as I hinted above, Easter is payday — be it monthly or semi-monthly or weekly. Easter/Payday jumpstarts our weary spirits, inspires a fresh burst of life, and catches our breath with the promise that Life is greater and more powerful than our workweek lives.

Of the major liturgical holidays that I’ve not managed to adapt to this seven-day cycle, Pentecost stands out in its absence: that holy moment of witnessing the Spirit’s whirling rush, of experiencing the unexpected, of participating in community without barriers or fear. It also makes complete sense to me that Pentecost doesn’t fit the schedule: the spiritual experiences of Pentecost are precisely the spiritual needs that lack space in our work weeks. People long for authentic community; we long for a change of pace; we long for inspiration — and we haven’t figured out how to meet those needs within our usual weekly schedules. Thus Pentecost is found in vacation — those days away from work when community and change and inspiration can be experienced fully.

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Blessings to you, as the Church liturgical calendar turns toward Pentecost … and as this weekly liturgical cycle begins again with Lent.

Easter Sunday: Transformation

On this Easter Sunday, praying with Jesus in the last of his seven words … marking a beginning with words from the end: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

My life in your hands.
My life, I daresay, out of hand
in the wake of this crazy, joyful twist:
the release of the spirit
out of itself,
unlike itself,
committed to you;
Ready to be
wildly different
wholly exhilarant
delightfully inventive
by the slight of your hand
as it holds my spirit, my life
gently before the blinding power
of Easter resurrection.

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Part of the 2013 exhibit, “NE6: Kingdom Come,” at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas

 

Lent 40 (Holy Saturday): Death

In the final hours of Holy Week, we pray and reflect on the 6th of Jesus’ 7 last words: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

How late did they stay awake that night, counting the stars, recounting the stories? Were there long spaces of silence between them? Did they laugh, too, just once in a while, remembering the wedding wine … the outrageous catch of fish … the donkey? Surely they wondered what was next (although you can’t really think too far ahead when grief is here and now). The end of one life forces a pause upon surrounding lives: what is finished for one is finished for all. You can never go back.

Lent 39 (Good Friday): Thirst

Continuing to pray with the seven last words of Christ. On this Good Friday, the fifth word: “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)

At the last: a most human need.
For all of the times you had poured out wine
and provided a miraculous feast,
now at the end you thirsted.

Can I replenish you, the Christ?
As your life wanes, is there anything I can do?
The best I have is sour wine & a sponge,
not even a proper cup.

And if I could, at this moment,
return the favor of spreading an abundant table,
what purpose would it serve? You are dying.
Thirst is the lesser pain to ease.

Still, let me run for more wine!
Give me purpose, urgency, a grocery list and task, I plea,
so that I have a reason to avoid this bitter scene.
Your thirst gives me something to do…

…which reveals what I cannot face
at the foot of the cross: death and uselessness.
We have endowed your death with function and meaning,
trying to save our own from futility.

But there it is:
my own futility, in lengthening shadows;
my uselessness, on the end of a hyssop branch;
your need, unsatisfied at the last.

Lent 38 (Maundy Thursday): Forsaken

We pray today on the fourth of Jesus’ seven last words, according to Mark 15:34 — “At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'”

No! Don’t leave us alone!
Don’t let go of us!
You are our lifeline
amidst the raging storm, you are
the ray of light at the end of this long tunnel.
Don’t abandon us, for we don’t know
how to support one another.
We lurch and sway
wrecklessly
without care for the
collisions we cause while casting off
one from another, disowning sister and brother,
forsaking God in everyone we meet.
Do not leave us alone,
we cry . . . yet
we have left one another.
O God, how we have left one another!

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)