“The Altar should be completely bare, without cloths, candles, or cross.”
Good Friday rubric from the Roman Missal
There is a tradition for Holy Thursday called the “stripping of the altar,” where as a last sign-act of preparation for Good Friday all decorations are removed from the sanctuary. For those of us who have participated in such a solemn action it is truly life changing, the beauty of purple paraments, candles, crosses, bibles, banners, and plants now being replaced with nothing. The bareness of the space in itself a sign-act of the agony that we are about to rehearse. The beauty and pomp of Palm Sunday now history, the energy of the ministry of Jesus only a memory, now replaced by the possibility of sin and death having the last say.
What do we do when the energy is gone?
I’ve been wondering that too. What happens when the excitement is no longer present, when the Spirit no longer seems to be moving, when coldness, struggle, and brokenness settles in?
Our tendency is to move on to the next place where energy is found. We do this in our relationships, in our jobs, in our hobbies, so it should not surprise us that we have the same reaction in church. I guess we tend to believe that it is about geography, that if we just change spaces or places that we will find that which we are longing for, the next fix, buzz, the next spiritual high.
Good Friday stops us in our tracks! It forces us to recognize that the brokenness, dryness, and our tendency to cut and run are rooted in sin and death. In the human tendency to make life about us, not recognizing our beloved-ness, and our unwillingness to live in covenant with others.
In order to find new life, to find redemption, we must be willing to live through those times when the energy is not there, when the euphoria is gone, when our mortality comes knocking. It turns out that it is during those moments that God can be most present in our lives for it is in those moments that we are most aware of our desperate need for divine grace.
The story of our faith is filled with the ups and downs of the human condition. Let us not be afraid to settle into the stillness of these moments, let us hear the still small voice, the outstretched arms for the life of the world. Always remembering that salvation is near!