Because of working in church ministry for so long I became accustomed to thinking about time in relation to two major events in the year, Christmas, and Easter. There was the rest of the year which followed the Roman calendar, which most of the western world still operates on, and then there were these two big wildcard-events that would either cause stress or relief to the rest of my schedule. It’s like there are two circular calendars spinning on top of each other, one calendar is built on nature (Easter, for example, is still based on the position of the moon.) and the other is built on religion (most of our calendar comes from Norse or Roman mythology. The holidays are a mash-up of those myths and Christianity.) Sometimes they fall in sync and sometimes they collide.
I love when they collide.
When the two collide, people feel the pull from these two calendars and they feel like they must make a choice, "which one do we follow" Especially when the essence of the holidays seem contradictory. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, tomorrow is both St. Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday. One day is a celebration of romantic love originated to remember a Christian martyr named Valintine who, according to one myth, was helping Christians escape Rome but fell in love with his jailers' daughter and was tortured and murdered upon capture. Ash Wednesday, on the other hand, is the first day of forty days leading to Easter where Christians observe The Passion ( Latin for suffering ) of Jesus of Nazareth before he was tortured and murdered. Interesting, don’t you think, how much torture and murder there is in the origin of these two momentarily overlapping holy-days?
I suppose both of these days continue to carry the traits of their inception. They are days of passion. There’s a lot of suffering in Valentines Day if you think about it. Most of us can remember at least one Valentine’s Day when we were lonely, angry or broken-hearted. Depending on how deep your desire was for a lover, wasn’t it like torture seeing other people in love when you’re in pain? Wouldn’t it intensify your longing? The loss and the ache were greater on a day when the calendar forced you to remember your desire for love and connection.
Ten years ago Valentine's Day changed for me when I held the tiny body of my son Liam in the three hours he lived on Feb 14th, 2008. Every year since then I feel the love and loss inside myself, tangled up like lovers in an embrace. It arouses a mystery in me that kills me and brings me to life at the same time. I don’t always steward this mystery well, more often than not I have avoided it because it awakens my desire in a way that is too inconvenient to my work and my other obligations but sometimes I have the courage to observe it and let it in.
In these last ten years, this love/loss has taught me a lot. I have learned that “closure” is a lie that we pursue to avoid the torture of love but which robs us of love's meaning. I’ve learned that all loss comes from love and this loss can actually become a gift in disguise. I’m learning to treasure the ache and integrate it into everything I love because it is all limited. I am limited. I’m a precarious mortal. I guess that’s what makes me lovable too.
The dance between love and loss is also alive in the season of Lent. Lent actually comes from the old English and Germanic words for “long-days,” meaning that this was when people noticed the first signs of Spring. The days were getting longer and the death of winter was beginning to fade. The Church engaged in this reality of preparing for the new life that was on the horizon by grieving and suffering with Christ the death of our old life.
This is The Passion. A practice that brings a deeper meaning to our loss and love. However, the experience from within this practice of suffering is de-centering, confusing and frightening. The Passion invites us to confront the torture of love and the fear that it exposes. It is the painful procedure of stripping away the artifice that we’ve built to protect us from divine love. The Passion is the collision between love and loss, doubt and faith, hope and despair, pain and pleasure. In the intercourse of these bodies, a new life begins. In the very place where there was only darkness and chaos life begins... Life where life was once impossible. Out of nothing an unstoppable force is set into motion. A force that animates all that was once believed to be lost forever. A universal force called resurrection.
This year, I want you to engage with your own passion and resurrection. This is why I’m creating two events with two Denver area churches that will provide a space and time for this engagement.
The event is called “Darkness” and it consists of the Christian de-centering practice called “stations of the cross.” Each station is an interactive installation that challenges assumptions of faith, belief, and doubt. Through an interactive audio guide that participants use on their smart-phones, people will progress through ten stations which walk through the biblical story of Jesus' suffering in the final moments before his crucifixion. The first event will be held at New Denver Church from March 26th-March 30th and a special stations of the cross and liturgy will be held at Belong Church on March 30th. Both events are free. For more information follow Torn Curtain Arts on Facebook and click on the events link. I hope you are able to join us at either one of these events but more importantly, I hope you find new ways to explore the relationship of love and loss in your own life during this Lenten season.