Saturday, April 15, 2006

pesach & tenebrae


pesach
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
For the last few years I’ve celebrated Passover with a small group of Unitarians who grew up with some kind of Jewish heritage in their lives, or married into it. Most of the folks are humanists, in keeping with an old Unitarian tradition, and the Haggadah that’s used for the meal (changes a little every year) has a strong humanist bent.

This year the Telling focused on slavery and freedom – launching from the captivity of the Israelites in Egypt into ruminations about contemporary slavery, which is alive to this day: Figures from 2004 indicate that 27 million people are enslaved against their will. Most slaves are women and children.

Sobering.

The following night, Good Friday, we attended a Tenebrae service – another descent into the shadows. As a congregation we read together the invocation:
Fear, impatience, anger,
Resentment, doubt, greed,
You are welcome here.
We will hold you until you soften.
We will love you until you begin to melt.
We will sing to you until you remember peace.
Darkness and sadness,
Loneliness and sorrow, Come.
We know you well.
You are welcome here.
I’ve always enjoyed this time of year, the hope and optimism of Easter Sunday, the flowering of Spring. But this year, given recent events, I appreciate this darkness that comes before the sunrise even more than I have in the past. The shadows have been shouting for my attention for the last few months – and in truth I’ve tried not too look.

I don’t like it when people I love die. I don’t like when I’m leveled by a virus that weakens my body and taxes my brain. I don't like it when world news seems to be increasingly entropic. My impulse has been to look forward – up and out – moving through – an impulse to ignore the untidiness around me. But the last few days have given me an opportunity to reflect, frankly, on everything that sucks.

Not to wallow, but to reflect, here, in the dark and the gloom.

If you've ever sketched in charcoal you know what I mean: when shaping a form it's impossible to directly draw the surfaces where the light shines and reflects the brightest. The only way to show these things is to shade in the dark side of the form; it's then that the lit surfaces come into view. It's only by looking directly into the shadows that we can see things in their full dimensions.

There’s a beautiful Arabic proverb: “All sunshine makes a desert”. These dark times are the rains that, when they pass, will make the earth bloom.

1 comment:

enyasi said...

Of course the one week I don't read, every post is a literary masterpiece... Love this.. and I love the proverb....Common sense dictates that things grow best in light.. but I have done most of my growing when things are darkest... Thanks for the wonderful thoughts...

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