I talked myself hoarse trying to be heard above the din. People were gathered around tables sharing their lives with each other during the Maundy Thursday Love Feast at our church. It was clear that most were having a good time. It took what seemed like forever for the noise to abate when the leader of the service tried to speak.
This special Holy Week meal is similar to the potluck dinners our church has from time to time. The fellowship is lively and the food, cooked by many hands, is shared in love. During Holy Week, however, the sharing of the Eucharist and Foot Washing add to the sense of community in Christ that these meals exhibit. Community is loud and noisy.
The next day, Good Friday, I found myself sitting in our church’s sanctuary silently contemplating the stations of the cross set up by our pastoral staff for a day of reflection and prayer. Usually filled with the gathered community for worship, on this day the church provided a true sanctuary, a sanctuary for the contemplative soul. While over 100 people filled the fellowship hall for the Maundy Thursday service, there were only a few people at the church for the day of reflection and prayer. Silence doesn’t come easily for most of us. Silence not only puts us in touch with the God-image within, but it also makes us aware of the evil tendencies of our egos; tendencies that crowd out the God-image.
As human beings, and as followers of Jesus, we need to have both the clamor of community and the contemplation of time alone with our souls. Holy Week gives a prime example of both. At the Passover feast, Jesus enjoyed the company of his followers, sharing a meal and the Eucharist. There were intimate moments when his beloved disciple leaned on his breast and heard “the heartbeat of God.” There were confrontational moments when the betrayer was identified. And there were boisterous moments when Peter wouldn’t allow the Master to wash his feet. This was community, and like Jesus, beautifully divine and brutally human. I can only imagine that there was a lot of clamor.
At some point, however, Jesus interrupted the revelry to go out “as usual” to the Mount of Olives to pray (Luke 22:39-46). It was a continual practice for Jesus. It is recorded that during this night of contemplation, he wrestled with his ego tendencies, anguishing to the point of sweating blood. But he also experienced his God-image through an angel who ministered to him. In contemplation he was able to surrender his ego to his God-likeness. In contemplation he became grounded, balancing the clamor of community with the calm of silence and contemplation.
Jesus followed clamor with contemplation. As his followers, it behooves us to do the same. Is contemplation part of your “usual” practice of spirituality? Or are you too caught up in the clamor of everyday life?