Thursday, April 16, 2009

Holy Week redux

Tonight my Orthodox friends are observing "Great and Holy Thursday" as part of their preparation for Easter this coming Sunday. Their liturgies tend to be much more elaborate and mystical (and longer) than ours, but the general themes are the same.

I want Sylvia and Manny and their three children to know that I am praying in a special way for them. Without some cDNA I obtained from Sylvia's lab 17 years ago, I'd not have been able to do my doctoral research.

How wonderful to see Athena graduate from Stanford just before I mobilized to come Down Range! She was only 5 years old when I first met her; now she is a gorgeous young woman.

As we did last week, the Orthodox will perform the washing of the feet ritual which is unique to the Mass on Holy Thursday. Chances are, there will be few places in the US where as many combat-booted feet were washed as we did, though!

While the Archbishop for the Military Services was presiding at a Maundy Thursday liturgy on another Camp, replete with choir and instruments and a cast of thousands (well, a score, anyway), my little congregation had only the benefit of a very talented guitarist and vocalist. This meant that when I was washing his feet, we didn't have any music!

I found the ritual to be especially meaningful this year, perhaps because of the central focus of service to others which is the hallmark of the liturgy. I've always loved the egalitarianism of worship -- everybody in the congregation stands (or sits or kneels or snoozes) as equals before one another and before God. As I moved down the row of congregants washing their feet, I knelt before very junior Enlisted and rather senior Officer Soldiers, before women and men, military and civilian, native-born and naturalized US citizens, as well as third-country nationals.

It was awesome. But don't try to tell that to my arthritic knees!

Susan R (from California) and my parents sent oodles of spectacularly lovely silk flowers with which we adorned the altar, in commemoration of the celebration of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Thanks, Susan! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

I thought they looked splendid here in a war zone, far from home and loved ones.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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