2 April 2010

An outward sign of an inward and invisible grace

I love this ancient definition of sacrament from St Augustine. It sums up so much - the outward expression of the journey one has taken.

This definition took on a new power for me last night at the Vigil. On Thursday night we had the Maundy Thursday liturgy, when we re-enact Jesus washing his disciples' feet, and the institution of the Communion. I took small daughter to it: it's a service I love because it marks the transition into the Garden of Gethesemene and Good Friday. It's also highly dramatic - made more so this year because we were both asked to be one of the 12 who stand in for the disciples and get their feet washed. I wasn't expecting this but it was really powerful for her (and me): it was also amazing having a child among the adults, as a really obvious symbol that God's love embraces the youngest and the oldest. She said that it tickled a bit but she understood that it was different from having a bath - especially as one of her favourite priests washed her feet.

During the Communion, those who had had their feet washed were invited to stand in the sanctuary behind the altar, which is the first time she has been there. She said to me that it was really beautiful - and it was. Lots of candles, four shimmering silver chalices and patens, the gorgeous high feast vestments: lovely. And then it was all taken away after the Communion: the church was stripped of all its decoration, the altar naked to the sky, and all the lights turned out (including the Baptistery light - the only time in the year that this light is out). The gathering darkness in our big church was a visible symbol of the deepening darkness of what was coming: the loss, the fear, the distress, the betrayal and trial, scourging and crucifixion.

I did my part of the Vigil in the Chapel between 2-3am this morning, and it was a really beautiful time. Staying awake with Jesus in the Garden, and reflecting how all of life is an outward working of the inward grace God has shown us: all of life is sacramental. Jesus' own life was a sacrament, especially Good Friday: working out visibly what had happened in his life long before.

No comments: