Bethesda by the Sea

I am writing this in a church, which probably is not very reverent of me. It is the overnight watch, as Holy Thursday dissolves into Good Friday. The Easter Triduum. Apologies for my irreverence, and also for years of leading you astray, as I’ve told you for years now that lent, that somber season that leads to Easter, ends with the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday. Well, that’s not true. It ends, I’ve learnt just tonight, with the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. And so I apologize for years of misinformation.

While I’m pretty good with the secular stuff, I am certainly not your best source for liturgical information. Although I love churches (especially old ones), I have not been a very good churchgoer for a while now. My last time in a church was for Dad’s funeral mass last February, before lent even began, and not since last Easter before that. But I love ceremony and I love tradition, and I love this night. It was my grandma Assunta who taught us the tradition of visiting three churches on Holy Thursday, though three may have been a tradition of her own––visiting seven is more traditional, an Italian tradition coming out of the seven basilicas of Rome and the seven stations of the cross. But we do what we know and three is what I have always known. And there are meditations that we are supposed to reflect upon while we are in those churches. But me, I am a visitor. I like to visit and sit in the company of those I love, and so this is what I do here, too. It may be just me and a few other souls in this dark church tonight, but in my heart all the ones I love are with me, too. My whole family. No one is missing. This is especially important to me this year.

The doors of this church will remain unlocked through the night. The church is open this night because, in the Christian tradition, Jesus asks us to keep watch with him this night in his agony. He knows already what the day ahead will bring. And so we watch, we keep vigil. Just as I did with my dad, not that long ago. The candles are lit, the statues are covered. I sit with my thoughts, and I type these words. Irreverent or not, I’ve brought you all here with me, too. It seems right to me, it seems good, in a holy place where our hearts are open, and where they open further, that we should all be together, sustained by angels, for all our joys and sorrows.

Image: Outside the Church of Bethesda by the Sea in Palm Beach, in the courtyard, is this statue, which greets me each Holy Thursday on my journey. “Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda.”

Your April Book of Days

April First brings All Fools Day, April Fools… and your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for April. The tricks and practical jokes today are traditionally supposed to end at noon, but I’d be wary all day long if I were you. I’ll admit here and now: I’ve got nothing up my sleeve this year. Not a thing. But I always love hearing about your April Fools pranks, so please, share them. The comments below are an excellent place to do so.

Our Lenten journey is fast coming to a close and we come this month, in April’s second week, to Holy Week, with all its beautiful mysteries. Maundy Thursday always is one of my favorite nights: a pilgrimage of sorts. There are years when I don’t enter a church all year and there are years where I go more often, but Holy Thursday is the night when I go, typically, to three of them, in the dark and quiet late night hours, to sit there and breathe in the stillness. My grandmother Assunta taught me this, and each year I go and I think of her. This, to me, the core of tradition: to maintain those bridges across time and space. This year, I will think of my father, too. I suspect it will not be an easy night for me, but it will be an important one.

I know my writings have been few and far between lately, and for this I apologize. I’m here with you, I’m just having a hard time lately getting out of my own way. But folks tell me this is to be expected, and while the pain of losing a loved one never goes away, it does, I know, evolve. And so I am evolving. I’ll write to you when I can. Sometime during Holy Week, I am sure. Maybe twice, who knows? And most likely for St. Mark’s Eve on the 24th, and again for May Eve, Walpurgis Night… as the wheel of the year clicks again by one more cog, this time toward summer. There is magic to be had in all of these holy days/holidays … and my wish for me, for you, is that we all tap into that magic. My dad believed in the value of hard work and a job done well. I’ve got a job to do in writing this Book of Days, and I’d best get to it. He wouldn’t put up with me slacking off.

By the way, if you miss us, well… we do a better job of keeping in touch these days via our Instagram feed: @conviviobookworks. More of a picture book!

 

Spring

And now it is spring in our Northern Hemisphere. We are halfway between winter solstice and summer solstice. Change, the only thing that stays the same: each day a bit different from the one before and the one to come, and yet for a few days, we will be in balance: day and night roughly the same, across the globe. The sun due east as it rises, due west as it sets.

When we were in New York earlier this month for Dad’s funeral, at the Cemetery of the Holy Rood, I happened upon these flowers beginning to bloom. Since then, they’ve been covered in snow and I don’t know if they’ll be blooming again or not. But I liked how, that day, at least, it was a little bit of everything, all at one time, at least in that frame: dry leaves of autumn, fresh growth of spring, earthy browns, miraculous purples. With each passing day, light and springtime gradually win over darkness and winter, and before you know it, summer will be coming in, and we will welcome again that gentle time of year.

 

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