I don’t know much about astronomy, although I often wish I could recognize constellations and recall specific names of various ‘goings on’ in the night sky. I don’t know much, but I know just enough to know that something’s different, that I should notice something.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the moon these past several nights has been fascinating from our vantage point. Only a few days ago, I don’t remember seeing it at all. Then a crescent in the night sky, but only the tiniest sliver. Then a bit more. Then last night, while walking home, it was even brighter and reflecting even more light our way — but not taking away from the other stars around — all while promising to wax even more.
We’re on our way to a full moon — April 19, www.moongiant.com tells me. Perhaps you know that Easter Day is connected with the lunar cycle. “Easter Day is always the Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox on March 21,” says our Book of Common Prayer, p.880. And if you’re especially adventurous there’s a fairly convoluted “Table and Rules for Finding the Date of Easter Day” in the Prayer Book, pages 880-881, but you have to find ‘The Golden Number’ and know ‘The Sunday Letter.’ Ancient monks and astronomers were a lot smarter than I am!
Turn the page, instead, and the BCP gives us the date of Easter all the way to the year 2089. Whew!
All of this, in a weird sort of way, is a beautiful reminder of the importance of what we’re preparing to do — enter our holiest week and prepare for Easter joy. What we, as Christian people, are preparing to do is something like being aware, being made aware that something has changed, something is showing up that we need to pay attention to, something we need to notice.
We’re not always aware of what God is doing in our life and in our world. We’re not always aware, for instance, that normal, everyday dinner-table companionship is nothing short of a sacrament, a gift, given by God. Sometimes we forget to pray. Sometimes we hurry through our meal, forsaking companionship, joy, blessing. Nor are we always aware that a particular challenge, say, is like Good Friday, a day when our God, also, felt pain, felt abandoned. We’re not always aware, not always.
That’s when seasons shift — phases of the moon, for one — giving moments which heighten our awareness, help us pause and remember, return, renew. Years ago, Charlie Price and Louis Weil, two great liturgical scholars of the mid-20th century, wrote: “Our life regularly makes contact with Word and Sacrament as time runs through its recurring cycles.” Liturgy for Living, p.220.
My life, and your life regularly makes contact with Word and Sacrament. It’s just that I’m not always so aware. Nor are you. We get busy or, better, we keep ourselves busy so as not to be bothered. We think we’re in charge. We don’t think we need God or the traditions or worship patterns of the church, or, if we say we do, we don’t always act like it. We actually behave like nothing bad will befall us — no Good Friday challenges here; no abandonment issues in this life; no blessings for which I need to give thanks.
Holy Week, the Christian season which starts with Palm Sunday this weekend, is an excellent interruption to those lies we tell ourselves, the deceptions that make us think we’re in charge and we’re all good. Holy Week asks you to stop, take notice, return, re-orient, be renewed. Holy Week calls you to move your relationship with God and your true self back to the center — back to the place where you keep shoving it off. Holy Week is a time of spiritual introspection and growth. It is God’s gift of a holy interruption.
Take it. You need it. We all do.
I look forward to seeing you in church!