Saturday, April 19, 2014
Several years ago, The Boy was in Rome on Good Friday — traveling with a group of Latin students from school. It wasn’t on their itinerary, but they returned to the Coliseum that night to see the Via Dolorosa, and to see Pope Benedict. He didn’t take a lot of photos, or shoot long videos, but instead told me that he thought I would want him to be there, to watch, not put a lens between him and the action. A theater guy all the way, that one. And yes, he was exactly right about what I would have wanted.
I wrote my column last week for CatholicPhilly about watching for the people around us walking the Via Dolorosa, those for whom Calvary is not an image, not something they settle themselves comfortably back into their pews to listen to, but an inescapable reality.
It's making me wonder if we should stand to listen to that proclamation of the Passion on Sunday, and on Friday, on feet that ache, with backs that long for support, that we should face at least that much reality. We should push away the lens we bring, and let ourselves be swept into this moment.
But even the willingness to bear what reality we can, to try to catch the moments where time is pierced through and we see Christ fallen in the dust and pinned to a tree, is a lens. Are we willing to face the realities of our own tears, our own troubles?
On Monday, I was pulling open a window in my hot and stuffy classroom, to let in the spring breezes (and alas, the odd wasp). The first one stuck, so I tugged hard on the second. The laws of physics are such that the forces all have to add up. The force not needed to open the window thus went into my tumbling down the lecture hall stairs until I hit the bottom. Hard with my head.
My first thought was how little padding there was between the carpet and the poured cement floor. My second was how quiet my classroom was. I have never heard it so silent, not even during a test. I picked myself up (with a little help from my students, the athletes checking for concussion symptoms) and perched on a lab stool for the rest of lecture, which I perforce finished. Students joked with me that I was benched from contact sports for the next couple of weeks, “No rugby for you, Dr. Francl!”
For the next two days my head ached, my shoulder reminded me it was stiff each time I reached up. Choir rehearsal for the Triduum, when deep breaths hurt my bruised ribs, felt like a a Lamaze class for potential messiahs. O vos omnes, qui transitit per viam, attendete...quick breath...videte...Breathe! and now push through...
By Holy Thursday I was feeling significantly less battered, marching through my to-do-list so I could keep Good Friday utterly clear for preaching and prayer, for sacred reading and liturgy, for a long contemplative walk. I printed something out on the printer down the hall, scooped it up and as I strode back to my office, began to proof read it. Then I tripped over the handy stop that keeps my door open, and went flying. Please, don’t let me hit my head again, I prayed. The cup did not pass me by, and I hit the metal leg of the table in my office with a clang that brought my retired geology colleague dashing in. Head wounds bleed. Our department financial wizard and guardian of the budget stuck her head in the door and said firmly, “I know you don’t want the fuss, but I’m calling public safety.” The campus EMT came, the campus police came to get a report, the safety officer...
Some hours later I’m cleaned up, dressed in my best black dress for Holy Thursday and sporting a neat set of stitches across my brow, a touch of the “crown of thorns.” I ache in every muscle. Each subsequent liturgy has required a bit more energy than I have. Yet like Jesus, who each time he falls gets to his feet, I am walking these Triduum days, not settled comfortably into liturgies I know well, with my lens held up, but battered and bent and blown.
Posted by Michelle at 1:46 PM