Thursday, April 13, 2017

In between


In the Christian observance of Holy Thursday (that's today), church-goers re-enact the Last Supper (a Passover Seder) that Jesus held with his friends, his washing of their feet, and his final retreat to the Garden of Gethsemane to meditate and pray.

The Biblical writer Matthew (26:39) reports Jesus' prayer in the garden:

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Nadezhda Mandelstam of whom I wrote extensively on Monday was culturally Christian as well as ethnically Jewish. Her memoir -- of life, of deaths, and of existence suspended in between for more than a decade during Stalin's regime of terror -- includes a poignant gloss on this prayer.

The prayer "May this cup pass from me" can only be understood if you know what it is to wait for the slow, inevitable approach of death. It is far harder to wait for a bullet in the back of the neck than to be stricken down unawares. ... In our sort of life everybody gladly falls for illusions or seeks some belief that gives a sense of reality ... The distinguishing feature of terror is that everybody is completely paralyzed and doesn't dare resist in any way.

The "Agony in the Garden" is by Gauguin, painted in 1889.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

I was about to ask how your church observes Maundy Thursday.

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