Friday, March 29, 2013

Into the Garden We Go

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. (John 18:1).

The Lord leaves the place where he had spoken with his Father. He goes forth from there. He does not, however, go alone, but in the company of his disciples. It is a company in which many things are not explicitly stated. Within it, the Lord is the one who knows everything; he had communicated his knowledge to the disciples, but they have comprehended only a little of it.

Still, they have not been estranged from him through this gap in insight. They are the archetype of a true Christian communion, in which much is passed over in silence and each remains at peace even if not knowing everything about the other.

For the Lord, something of the highest, most decisive sort is taking place: he has spoken with the Father, and now he goes forth. The disciples scarcely notice the enormity of the transition. They just go along with him. Thus the Lord goes with the Bride, the Church: she follows him, wordlessly, simply, in a sense colorlessly, but without revolt, in calmness in him

They go into a garden, to a pleasant location that in no way corresponds to the event. What is now to be played out, the suffering, will be so beyond measure that no earthly scenery could reflect it.

Adrienne von Speyr, The Birth of the Church: Meditations on John 18-21

Reflection – Good Friday calls us forth to go with the Lord. Forth from comfort; forth from comprehension; forth from complacency; forth from the familiar, the easy, the known quantity.

What is played out this day before our eyes, this story so familiar and so endlessly strange to us, is so utterly beyond us. The inner dialogue of Jesus and the Father, this deliberate, purposeful, relentless walking of God’s into the very heart of human evil, suffering, death, the face of love and grace shown forth on this day—all of this is utterly and wholly beyond our comprehension.

The disciples fell asleep in the garden, and this is no wonder. So often when faced with realities too big to take in, too much to handle, human beings simply shut down, simply turn away or off in our interior being.

God is dying for us today, and in this impossibility the very heart of the Trinity is revealed, and it is a heart of all-love, all-compassion, all-mercy and all-goodness. The most horrible thing in the world that could happen makes manifest the most wonderful thing in the world that could be.

Oh, it’s all too much! And we do, most of us, somewhat ‘shut down’ on Good Friday at some point. It is more than we can handle. And that’s OK, I think. God knows our capacity, and year by year, day by day, His Spirit is at work to help us take it in a little bit more than last year, a little more deeply than before.

Meanwhile, we all follow along after him on this trail. Off to the garden we go, then to the chief priest’s house, then to Pilate, then to Golgotha, then to the tomb. Trailing along like little tired children, dragging our heels and hanging our heads, whining a bit, or perhaps with this still calmness and good will that von Speyr writes about here.

This is the Church—the band of little human beings trailing after Jesus on this blazing path of glory and pain, anguish and love that he laid down these thousands of years ago, with majestic steps and divine certainty. It is a path ineradicable, permanently marked upon the face of the earth, and the mission of the Church in essence and in depth is to walk together, halting or quick, reluctant or eager, down this path of love and death, of gift and communion, to be with Him at the heart of the world, and so rise with Him to the Heart of God.
A Good Friday to you all.

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