Stripping the Altar

Stripping the Altar

I went to church last night, for the first time since Advent. We have a cathedral in my town, which sits high on a hill. Those who built it wanted the highest point of the city to be the spire of a church.

It is a respectable cathedral, cold and weighty.

My liturgy is rusty, it’s been so long since I’ve flipped the pages of the prayer book, and I stumble over the words.

Sometimes, I am just silent.

This year, Holy Week is the bearer of news of transition. I respond to transition, usually, with exuberance or weeping. Sometimes, both.

I can’t stop the tears as they fall during the reading of the Old Testament passage. The reader tells us the commandment of the Lord, that a family which is too small to have a lamb on their own should join with a close neighbor.

I am that small family. But I don’t know who I would turn to, as a close neighbor.

The time for the Eucharist draws near. This church has a high altar and a long aisle to walk before I come to kneel. I am conscious of every footfall, and of every bride who has walked this same path.

I kneel at the rail, hands outstretched, and the priest presses Jesus’ Body into them. I catch the faintest scent of lavender. I sip the wine, practicing that delicate dance between overflowing and not getting any.

I wanted the service to be healing, a cup of cool water turning slowly into wine. I wanted the heaviness of the cathedral to steady my nerves. I wanted to be able to breathe deeply under high ceilings.

Outside, the rain poured. I could hear the sound, light on the roof.

It’s been wet here, lately.

There is no miraculous formula for healing. There is nothing that cures the pain, or removes the sting all at once.

I watch the altar guild remove all of the trappings, the candlesticks and the cloths. They are stripping the altar, getting ready to mourn all day on Good Friday.

I feel guilty that my tears are not falling because I am struck by how much Jesus loves me, but because I feel like that altar, wondering why she’s being stripped. I feel like Martha, huddled with her sister Mary, watching her brother die and wondering why Jesus hasn’t come in response to her cries for help.

Martha knew about resurrection, but she didn’t know what it would look like. She still wept out of her broken heart.

I am right there with her, today.

{photo credit}

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  • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

    This is so beautiful. I’m holding your hand in that Martha-place. Sunday’s a-coming. Sunday’s a-coming.

    • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

      Thank you dear, Tanya. I love you so much and I’m thankful to have you in the struggle with me. Thank you for coming and consoling, and awaiting Sunday with me.

  • jtheory

    love it. I wish he’d just hurry up and get here too.

    • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

      Me too, friend. Me too.

  • http://avanomaly.blogspot.com/ Jamie

    Achingly beautiful. Witnessing and petitioning hope for you tonight.

    • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

      Thank you, Jamie. That means a lot to me. Such a beautiful (and humbling) part of this process has been in knowing that real prayers are being delivered as a response to my tears on paper. Thank you for that, friend.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    This is Brutiful… beautiful, brutal, and messy truth and it pulls at me to remember to be a neighbor… to look up, reach out, be love. Praying for you. Resurrection always gloriously catches us a little off guard. Praying for some blessed suddenlies for you in this season!

    • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

      Oh Karrilee, thank you. Brutiful is painful, isn’t it? I’m glad that you find a challenge here. We all so need each other, whether we know it or not. I too am praying for some glorious resurrection, and I love the way you put it: some suddenlies.

  • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

    This is so pure and honest, Cara. I relate so much to your sentiment at the end: “I feel guilty that my tears are not falling because I am struck by how much Jesus loves me, but because I feel like that altar, wondering why she’s being stripped. I feel like Martha, huddled with her sister Mary, watching her brother die and wondering why Jesus hasn’t come in response to her cries for help.” Thank you for sharing this, because it comforts me that I’m not alone.

    • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

      I’m so glad that you connected with that, Tamara. Those words are the last things I wanted to be true of myself, but I’m learning to lean in, even to the things that make me most uncomfortable. I know that my God can handle it. And I love that my being honest gave you a sense of commonality. You are not alone in these feelings, I promise you.

  • http://www.growingisbeautiful.com Courtney

    Haunting, heartbreaking, and beautiful. You write with such grace, gently beckoning us to sit with you while you tell us your story. I grieve with you, Friend. I am so sorry you do not have a “close neighbor” whom you can join yourself to, but please know that you are not alone. I do not understand why sometimes God only gives us soul sisters and kindred spirits who live miles and miles away, but still I am grateful that He does this–that such connections are even possible. Praying you will feel the power of the Resurrected Savior deeply and undeniably in the days ahead, and also that God will be merciful in bringing a close-by family for you soon. Sending hugs and love your way tonight, Friend.

    • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

      Thank you so much for these kind words, and for your solidarity, dear Courtney. I did reach out and found someone to spend Easter with. It was not a solution to the sorrow and constant loneliness that I describe here, but it was a start (and who can argue with that?)
      Thank you for your kindness across the miles.

  • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

    Thank you, dear Nancy. I appreciate your prayers and encouragement so much!

  • http://littledidsheknow.net/ Cara Strickland

    I love this image, Jody. Thank you for encouraging me to carry on and for being with me in this today.

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