Love and Grace in the Details

Sr. Rose wrote a beautiful article about how the cross has touched her this year very deeply. As I was listening to the Gospel of John during the Good Friday service today, I was struck again by how terse the re-telling of Jesus’ passion and death is, even though John is the more poetic of the four Gospels. I realized anew how impossible it is for any words–even inspired words–to express what Jesus’ life and death and resurrection–our salvation–really means.

This is always an unnerving realization for a writer who spends hours each week trying to capture experience with words. Yet, as a writer I have to keep trying, because that’s what a writer does. And then I realize that each of the Gospels offer us a slightly different perspective, different details from those poignant days–details that can make all the difference. For me today, it was the hyssop branch dipped in sour wine (or vinegar) and held up to Jesus’ lips to quench his thirst. The detail of that hyssop branch brought home to me that, as the Son of God was dying for us, his hands were restricted by nails so that he was unable to hold a cup of water. He had to depend on the mercy of others in his last hours.

If you look closely, you can see the little purple flowers!

Another detail that moved me today was my unexpected “first sighting” of spring wildflowers. As you can see if you look closely, they are robed “liturgically” in purple, as is fitting for Good Friday. So unexpectedly finding this symbol of dying (purple) and rising (first wildflowers of spring) touched me deeply. It was like God’s love–which always encircles me but is sometimes hard to see–was suddenly visible, all around me. I was surrounded by tiny purple flowers, as I am every day surrounded by his love…

I will continue to read the Gospel narratives in these days by focusing on the details–perhaps once again to discover a tiny–even absurd–detail that will all of a sudden overwhelm me with the joyous grace of being God’s beloved. For me, that’s what this sacred week is all about: to once again be awed, overjoyed, and so very, very humbled by such Great Love that literally pours Itself out for me at every Eucharist.

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