A Poem: “Take Off Your Shoes” by Adwoa Lewis-Wilson.
Take off your shoes,
In fact, remove all your coverings –
The cloak of achievement, adornments of knowledge,
Every false veil of ‘self’.
For the place you stand is holy ground.
Here is where I will burn away all that is not real.
Here is where you remain aflame with my Spirit’s fire.
Take off your shoes,
Yes, all your coverings.
For here you have found the baptismal fount.
You may not enter this sanctuary other than naked,
Then will I wash you and you will find your part with me.
Then clean and pure, will you abide as a beacon of my Light.
Like the bush you will not be consumed.
For this soul of yours is holy ground.
And see? You will not, naked, drown.
For by my presence, from your very soul
Has flowed springs of living water.
Bare yourself and come near.
In your soul you will find me:
A fire’s power,
A cleansing stream.
A perfect refuge,
An endless union,
A boundless bliss,
Unknowable Revelation, Unshakable Peace.
Here I wait, for you to arrive,
But first you must take off your shoes.
~ Adwoa Lewis-Wilson, April 2012; read during the Maundy Thursday Foot Washing Ceremony, Holy Week 2017, Hallelujah Farm.
This year is no different than most others for me. Easter comes and, in its wisdom, the Church bids us “Alleluias!” Nowadays, not even on Easter morning but on the night before. For me, this does not ring true. Frankly, somehow it stuns and even betrays the interior movements of my spirit.
“The Lord is risen indeed,” is so triumphant and strident. To me, it can only reference an accomplished (finished) historical act that ultimately negates the pretend of Lent and Passiontide, the Triduum and that most awe-full of days – Holy Saturday – when one knows nothing at all but the darkness, the void of dreams cast in Sheol. If we can say with certainty on Easter morn that the Lord is risen, then we must be speaking of what happened about 2000 years with the man Jesus, proven so entirely divine. Thus each year’s Easter, we ultimately erase the enactment or “faux-amnesia” of Lent. We remember what we pretended not knowing.
I say this because Easter morning was not so triumphal for the disciples themselves. I maintain that it cannot be so for Christ’s disciples who actually walk it with him, even today.
Mary Magdalene, most keen and present of disciples, is weeping in bewilderment at an empty tomb on Easter. She is mistaking her Beloved for a gardener. When all becomes clear, she is told not to cling to him, not to take him to herself yet because his ascent is not yet complete. Apparently he has farther away to go.
Thomas has not even seen him yet.
Some disciples on a road have a dim-witted conversation after which their hearts burn within them with recognition, just as He whom they longed for disappears again.
Peter and [John] have been to the tomb, seen and finally believed. Yet, like all the eleven, they are still hiding in an upper room out of fear. Christ must break in to that fear, just as he broke forth from their death.
Easter is a stark confrontation with something even more shuddering than death – the emptiness of our death: old narratives and well guarded, visited, and memorialized tombs. It is to see that the old stories we have allowed to hold us back (either our stories of fear or of importance) are ultimately vapid. It is to be invited to choose a new life that makes us fully alive, fully ourselves, but in the Life and Mystery of an ‘Other’. It is to embrace the whiplash path of risen, not fully, not yet – don’t cling, open again, turn again vulnerable again to the One Who Is, ever drawing us more fully into the Holy God…Life.
This Holy Week, I was blessed to travel with fellow pilgrims on an inward journey. Yes, we knew the events of so long ago. But we consented to travel with Jesus in our hearts.
Blessed are the poor? Blessed are those who mourn?
We consented to allow our own pains, losses, and tender trampled shoots of sprouting hopes to come to the surface. At the beginning of the week we anointed each other with myrrh (a burial spice) to walk Christ’s road of surrender and effacement within the contours of our own lives. We held those lives alert in our heart with their wounds and longings and these were washed by him in love and a new commandment on Maundy Thursday.
Then we let go, dared really to imagine what we sometimes fear (or else so often anesthetize) – we let our dreams die with him, into the dark void of the Father’s Mystery. Our very selves came in to Christ as he walked that week.
For me, the circumstances of the week this year were such that the transference or transfiguration of my life in to that of Christ’s and my assent to give him my Self freely for his descent into love, happened most explicitly on Maundy Thursday in the midst of an Agape Meal, the Foot Washing followed by our Eucharist and Vigil in the chapel. This could not be a remembrance only, or an enactment for the cathartic release at the end of a harrowing week. All of me must go with all of him.
But the thing is, we anointed each other, with myrrh, again on Easter morning as we sent each other out into the world.
For me it was probably just as well. The week after Easter was one of the most terrifying weeks physically that I’ve had in a long time and also one filled with a lot of hard reckoning about living into the charge I felt in my heart. Thoughts about my imminent need to move again… Job security… But this is what Easter is about. How does new life break in to our brokenness? The seed has fallen, and the earth of our lives claims to accept it and live by it, alone. So, what does that mean when despair creeps in, or the traumatic shock memories of the nights before, or the longing to cling to what was, in all its beauty and wonder and excitement…
Every year when Easter comes, it is not just the man Jesus we are celebrating arisen. It is the mystery of our own consent to die… and, if we are honest, the reckoning of what next. What is life if I truly have picked up these things in order to let them go, fall into the ground to bear God’s fruit?
No, for me it is not time, not yet, for “The Lord is Risen.” Not if Lent, Passiontide, and the Triduum have been true for me and I have been faithful to them, really allowing the Christ to have my life in which to incarnate even this part of his Mysterious life and mission – Death.
Right now, I am not ready for Alleluia. Perhaps not until Pentecost when the Spirit who will not leave us orphaned comes. Or at least not until Ascension when Jesus does rise fully to the Father, and my fragile yearnings with him. But life is what it is, its own timeless mystery. Perhaps not even then.
Eastertide: right now, what I can say this year with honesty and fervent faith (for that is all it is in these nascent days) is, “The Christ is rising, indeed.” In allegiance to the promise of life that Holy Sophia in Her Wisdom attests, I may even add to that conviction – the faith, hope and love of an “Alleluia.”
It is Eastertide. For those of us who would let Jesus walk into the tombs of our wastes and sorrows, or the ultimate dissatisfaction of our small (or large) dreams of the present, a real tide is rising. We still have more to which to be present. More must wash over us, wash through us, and bring us to fullness of life in the Father.
We are invited, even implored, by the story itself, NOT to put a period at the end of Easter day but to continue to let the truth of the season grow and transform us.
The Christ is rising, indeed. Alleluia.
Adwoa is a woman in her latter thirties, who has felt sought by Wisdom in many ways, primarily anchored in the Judeo-Christian tradition. With six years vowed as an oblate of a contemplative monastic order, she has explored living this path of contemplative practice as well as leadership roles in parish and monastic settings.
Adwoa is actively listening for how the Spirit of abundance and unity is manifested in places of personal and corporate poverty. She is discerning how to respond to an inner conviction that contemplative presence to self and others, through the path of darkness, is necessary to the transfiguration of our times and the manifestation of the unitive among us.
Adwoa is grateful to have participated in all four Wisdom offerings at Hallelujah Farm since the fall, including the recent weeklong Holy Week Retreat.