Saturday, May 28, 2005

Presence of Absence

Back to the Emergent Convention. The candles at the IKON service were more than ambient. This was a Tenebrae Service (reminded me of Bach's "Christ lag in Todesbanden," and Palestrina's "Tenebrae Factae Sunt," both of which we sang in the choir at Willamette University). "Tenebrae" is Latin for "shadows," and our hosts explained that this service was a remembrance of Holy Saturday, that shadowy day between Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection. The symbol is of near-total darkness. The candles were all extinguished, save one. The white canvases were progressively painted fully black (during the service!) We were eventually invited to participate in the service by lighting and extinguishing our own matches, which we took home as icons.

Most meaningful to me was the poetic discription of God's presence in the absence. When I left that night, I was eager to get home to discuss the experience with Laura. I didn't get to that night, because she had more improtant issues on her mind. My need to wait made the eventual description to her that much more meaningful. You see, I was so eager to tell her about my experience that she was very present to me as I drove home anticipating the conversation. Likewise she was looking forward to me coming home to help with her more serious matters. I was present to her as she waited for me. When I actually got home, I was so focussed on what I wanted to say that I wasn't very poresent to her. So I was more present to her in my absence than I was in my physical presence. Sad, I know. But it is a way we might look at God's "absence" during Holy Saturday, not to mention all those other times we don't sense God's clear presence. Sometimes God is more present because of perceived absence. You know that Hebrews 12 passage that says "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Maybe it's the substance of things longed for, the presence of God's absence.

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