Holy Week: Staying Empty

Holy Week: Staying Empty March 27, 2013

Some closets are rearranged with things easier to find. Some drawers have order so that retrieving something I need is not like a dumpster dive. All this clearing out for Lent has had its effect in me and in my abiding place. And I have felt the necessity of that continuing process of clearing out, cleaning and discerning what has use and what could better be recycled or shared, in my soul, as well as in my bins of clutter. But those empty spaces now beckon with some magnetic pull, “Fill me up!” Yet my heart tells me with force that I am not to fill up those shelves, those walls, those spaces in me, but to leave them open for the ways in which the Spirit is going to come to me in this Holy Week.

I have been fascinated to learn over the years that in culture after culture–Amish, Native American, Jewish, Persian–there is a tradition in the making of crafts of leaving a stitch dropped, or a slight imperfection, or a space in the row, so that the Spirit can get in to surprise and give life to the creation. So, I watch Jesus’ actions in this week as the gospels line them. Mark says:

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany. (11: 11)

Facing great confrontation, he does not enter into a flurry of strategy or preparation. The actions for which he creates space in this Holy Week are time and attention with beloved friends who need him and whom he needs, the clearing out of sacred space in the temple, and faithful observance of the spiritual practice of celebrating Passover. All the other encounters he has spring spontaneously out of the spaces of opportunity that came to him–the fig tree, the encounter with those hostile to him, the debate about resurrection, the noticing of a widow who was generous in her poverty.

My prayers as I come to the end of Lent this year are that I can leave enough space–in my house and garden, in my schedule, in my body, in my consciousness, in my attentiveness to whatever the Spirit is bringing me right now. I want to be faithful to my friends. I want to keep on with the holy work of clearing out, and I want to observe the faithful practices alone and with the community that ground and nourish me in God’s presence and Christ’s journey. But I long to keep empty spaces where the Spirit can get in to surprise me.

This week already things have come: an opportunity to be with grandchildren, a chance to pray for those who are suffering mightily in body and spirit, a work of art that turned my attention to the Holy, a prompt to connect with someone who longs for companionship, an insight from a scholar that illuminated my learning, an awareness of a place in my heart that has been opaque and hidden until now. The pace is slow, and I am not sure that the Type E (everything to everybody) part of me feels very accomplished. But I sense it is a holy pace into a holy emptiness, in anticipation of encountering an empty tomb to celebrate on Sunday morning this Easter.

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