Maundy Thursday service tonight stomped me in a way I don't remember being stomped for many, many years...
When I was about 8 years old, one time during Holy Week, my little sister and I watched Ben Hur. I don't know why our parents weren't there to run interference or explain (maybe they were there?) or why an 8 and 6 year old even chose to watch that. Of course, this was back when you had a max of 3 channel choices.
Anyway, I know the part in the movie about the people with leprosy was very scary for Nancy and me and we worried after that for a long time about getting "lepreus."
But the end of the movie, when Christ is crucified, brought the meaning of that concept home to me in a way that had never been so before. I went to my room and cried and cried, and I told Jesus, "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"
Tonight...we sang three movements from the Rutter Requiem. After the sweet and lovely foot washing and the Eucharist (with REAL BREAD, thank you!), the church is darkened, reserved Sacrament is "translated" into the chapel for overnight Vigil, and the procession which has left with the Sacrament in the monstrance returns, all in black cassocks. They silently strip the altar, wash it down with water and wine (as a body would be cleansed) and leave. Music is made during this time, after which all are to leave in silence. People take turns coming to the chapel to sit Vigil for an hour or more (I return at 5 am).
So we sang "The Lord is My Shepherd" and the "Agnus Dei," both exceptionally powerful pieces of music. As I've mentioned, there have been pretty profound changes in my singing through my breath and body work and voice lessons, and the emotion of this music-making was present for me as no musical experience ever has been before.
Then, the visual imagery of the altar stripping going on below...
afterward I had to go find a quiet place to really cry. I went back into the choir loft of the church and saw two Altar Guild members quietly draping a long black cloth over the empty wooden altar. It was as if I were seeing the women disciples of Jesus anointing His body after everyone else had run away.
As I left, one of them apologized to me! thinking she had interrupted my prayers. She said, "I don't like to do that when people are still in there." I tried to convey how meaningful it had actually been, but I don't think I was making much sense.
Jesus, I'm so sorry. For everything. I love you.