March 30, 2013

Somewhere between Heaven and Hell

I must say today is bright. The sun, for the first time this spring in New York City is showing her bright, smiling face on us. My week, was hectic, busy, and overwhelming.
Today, Holy Saturday, marks that time between the grandeur of rituals of the Catholic Church surrounding the Passion of Christ, his death. Today, in the Catholic Church, they commemorate his burial, his rest in the tomb. This was always one of my favorite days as a priest. There was almost nothing to do from a ministerial point of view; preparing for the Easter Vigil, reviewing my sermon for Easter Mass - which was traditionally meant to be short, you know the "Easter/Christmas Christians" weren't used to my lengthy sermons!

Today the Christians, still fresh from the brutal murder of their savior yesterday, take time to catch their breath. Hope is crushed; it is waiting, pushing against the dry dirt laying against it, hiding it from the sun if only by a thin veil of minerals and stone. As I have journeyed in life, I think in many ways I've been stuck in Holy Saturday. Not much movement going on, my previous life, as a seminarian, as a priest, as God's lover, ended on my Good Friday, in October of 1998. I laid that life in the tomb, stumbled out of the suffering I had endured, and rested, in my nearly 15 plus years of a Holy Saturday. I have been fresh from the brutal psychological trauma I put myself through for all those years. Of course I wanted to just sit here, on this quiet, sunny Saturday of life. Nothing much to do, a little preparation to live life, to just get by.
Holy Saturday is a time in the Christian world to prepare oneself for the resurrection of a savior. In my world, I have no savior, no one is coming to save me. I love the song by Jay Brannan, "Goddamned" and it so eloquently reminds of me of the life I had entered into as a believer who no longer believed. When I was undergoing my de-conversion, I didn't have Jay's song to sing or sweetly remind me of the broken path that I was walking down. But now, in my journey, as I sit on Holy Saturday clutching my Liturgy of the Divine Hours, his lyrical poetry reminds me of the time between heaven and hell, when so many people, Christians, are waiting for a savior. "But something tells me, No one's coming to save you." These words I remember them that first Holy Saturday, only two days after my life of faith ended, I thought about the man named Jesus and realized he wasn't coming back, if ever he was real.
God, it sounds so hopeless doesn't it? So dark, so sad? But in all this time that I've been sitting outside the tomb of my faith, maybe wondering if it would ever resurrect, I've not encountered darkness. I've not encountered suffering. I've been sitting here waiting all this time, wondering what to do with my life. What pieces of that world I knew before should I pick up, how should I move forward? I look out my window, the spire of the new World Trade Center casting its shadow across my neighborhood, the memory of smoldering ashes is fading, we've moved on, picked up, rebuilt. We've not forgotten, but we didn't sit there in the ashes. It is my time. I am not dead. My life is only just begun. It's time to roll the stone back from across the entrance of the tomb to open it and let my life back out.
Today from the Liturgy of the Hours, the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday the following passage from an "ancient homily" struck me as moving. "Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep." In reading the words I'm reminded of two things, the Norse God Odin and his odinsleep - Odin, the great god of magic, who upon being mortally wounded would sleep until healed, the great heavens would be quite. Secondly I am reminded of myself. Who is my king? Who is my ruler? As I am on my emotional and mental knees before the tomb of a life I lost, left behind 25 years ago, my arms are hanging at my side and there they allow my finger tips to brush something. Here in the great silence, resting, I feel beneath my fingers my crown. At this time in my life, as I rest between heaven and hell, I lift the crown and place it upon my head. For I am my own king. Time to wake up.
My belief in the divine was never a reality, it was only a construct that I was trained to believe as a young man, and somewhere in the dark hours of remembering the Christian hero Christ, I realized it wasn't my faith. I tried for so long to embrace that life, that faith, but it wasn't meant to be. I was ashamed of allowing my life to be lead in that way. I was ashamed that I stood before faithful believers and prayed with them, all the while I was dead inside. I was resting in my tomb, the prison of faith. The barbed wires surrounding my hope, my own vision held me back. For so long I tried to deny that I wasn't a faith filled lover of god, and then even in breaking free, seeing that my faith was dead, I simply sat down outside the tomb and waited.
I'm not waiting anymore. I am no longer resting between heaven and hell. I'm walking away. There is no heaven, there is no hell. There is only the warm sun shining its smiling warmth upon my face. There is no great savior, no hero; I am my own hero, I have to be saved from no one but myself. Today on Holy Saturday I am putting the crown on. I am king. I am alive. I am resurrected.
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