Today is Maundy Thursday. I am a Christian but I am not a Christian. I am not a hellfire and original sin Christian. I will not pledge my belief in the factual truth of a beautiful and mythological story. I am my own kind of Christian and I have found a spiritual home in the Episcopal Cathedral on State Street in Portland, Maine.
I am the kind of Christian who could also be a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist but by accident of birth I was born into the Christian tradition. I like ritual. I like music. I like special outfits – especially flowy robes. I love hijabs and I secretly want to wear one everyday to show the world how much I love and believe in the unseen. I like incense and candles. And most of all I like stories.
I like stories about desert prophets who gather together a righteous community and live in peace guided by a beautiful and divinely-inspired work of poetry – read Mohammed. I like stories about a God/dess who loved the world so much that s/he decided to breath his/her own life breath into a newborn child who would go on to love and accept and heal the shunned and the shamed – read Jesus.
And today is Maundy Thursday. It is the time of the darkness before the light and rebirth of Easter and of spring returning to the planet.
I have been an Episcopal choister for many years. Maundy Thursday is my favorite service in the church year. I love when the lights are turned down and the alter is stripped. I love when the choir pads softly into the back of the Cathedral to sing Psalm 22.
Psalm 22 is a miraculous piece of poetry. It speaks to my innermost spirit. It speaks of the feeling of abandonment, it speaks of being abused and ultimately it speaks of trusting in the divine unseen, that unmistakeable force that courses through the world.
The Psalmist first cries out,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
And are so far from my cry,
and from the words of my distress?
Who among us hasn’t been mired in that dark night of the soul, wondering if we are utterly alone in a cruel world?
He goes on to describe the agony of his feeling of aloneness,
I am poured out like water
all my bones are out of joint
my heart within me is like melting wax.
What a stunning description of the feeling of the dissolution of the physical body during the darkest times of the spirit.
But ultimately, there is a healing, and my spirit is healed as I gently sing the beautiful melody of the Anglican chant in the dark of a soaring and beautiful building,
Yet you are he who took me out of the womb,
And kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.
I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born,
You were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.
And I feel deep within that I have not been, and I never will be, alone.