Today’s entry started as a presumptive blog about how our observance of Holy Week this year might just match early Christian worship in Rome’s catacombs. When I read the historical background about this underground cemetery, though, I realized that my supposed good idea had no basis in fact. The early Christians used the catacombs less as settings for meetings or worship, and more often as burial sites. So much for “This year, we, too, will worship in dark places away from others, fearing danger and death while yearning for new life.” That might have been a downer with not much history to support it….
What I have found in the last few days, though, is that holiness is alive and well in the land. Like the gentle breeze of the Spirit—power that would later ignite tongues of fire—there’s a spirit among us in these dark times that is growing in strength and influence. Alongside the innately positive human nature of the American people, there’s something holy about this country’s attitudes and actions that’s lighting up news feeds, airwaves and our national spirit.
What’s making this week holy will not likely be the gathering of millions of us in somber-and-later-joyful formal observance of sacred events from long ago. I won’t have that option this time around. But I can feel the essence—the Spirit—of those events in my life. I’m realizing again that what Jesus taught and exemplified is actually a good/holy way to live a satisfying life. I’m grateful to be surrounded by the Christ-like self-sacrifice of healers and caregivers, but also by the sturdy, caring virtues of truck drivers, service workers, civil servants, clerks, maids and farmers. All of them “ordinary” and all of them saints! Egotism and selfishness now stand out as ugly by comparison. I’m coming to terms with my possible death, my vulnerabilities and my dependence on God-given grace that comes in the selfless, loving acts of others. I want to be rescued from economic, environmental or societal collapse.
This week I will remember that I am part of God’s holy people. My faith during these difficult days joins me to the multitude of Christ’s followers over the ages. What I have fervently believed in the past has now become lively, useful, beautiful. I am even more convinced that forgiveness, rescue, lifework, love and generosity can still enliven the core of my existence. These are more than just good ideas! The names and faces of people I’ve encountered in countless news stories and conversations give me reason to take the witness of today’s saints and martyrs into my soul.
This week’s worship experiences will be virtual in one sense—I’m not together physically with any of you—but very, very real in every other sense. The absence of the week’s usual sacred contexts won’t limit my worship. I’ll miss the taste of bread and wine, but will savor being forgiven. I may not hear the Passion story in a somber, darkened sanctuary, but some of today’s life-and-death narratives will help me remember that Jesus’ death made life possible. I may not experience the fragrance of Easter flowers at church, but will cherish every Springtime blossom and bud I see as proof that life is stronger than death. This will be a holy week for holy people!