holy things


I have been remiss in posting — please forgive me. I am not passed out on the floor somewhere under a mop and bucket. I’m just sluggish. Perhaps I could use an interest rate cut or something.

I have several half-composed follow-up posts on Target, bread-baking and the in-law visit — all of which were just dandy, thank you. Also on the mouse in the house, which is not so dandy. But now that we are in throes of Holy Week, those are going to have to wait until next week. At the end of work today, I will pretty much be pitching a tent at church.

I love Holy Week. And I love the services of Holy Week, especially in all their majesty with the beautiful music and liturgy at St. Paul’s, K St. Our priest likes to say that you cannot participate in the full liturgy of Holy Week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) without it changing your life. I agree. For me, it has become like a vital annual retreat.

It’s like entering a different world, as we participate in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. I suspect many more people in D.C. will be watching basketball than going to church this weekend. But there is nowhere I would rather be than at St. Paul’s (incidentally if you are a DC pal and would like to join me, see the list of services here. the ones in bold are the important ones. call me if you’d like a ride).

I remember one year as I was riding my bike home from Good Friday, passing all these people sitting outside at restaurant patios, and I was kind of astounded to see that the world was puttering along just like normal for everyone. It was like, “What are you doing? Do you know what is happening?!” It is probably a shadow of how people feel when they get a happy hour invite after someone they know has died or been diagnosed with an illness. Or perhaps similar to how a bride feels when she finds out — what?!! — there is a huge war protest in D.C. on her wedding day. OK, maybe not like that.

For those who are celebrating Holy Week, today is Maundy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum Sacrum, the three holy days that lead up to Easter. “Maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum,” commandment. We remember Christ’s new commandment: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

The priests wash 12 parishioners feet and the choir sings this beautiful hymn (which was also sung at our wedding):

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.


Today is Ash Wednesday. Because of the wonders of the liturgical calendar, Lent and Easter are both very early this year. But the spring-like weather outside makes it feel like it’s already March and everything is right. on. time.

I really enjoy the opening of the Ash Wednesday service, when the priest invites the church to the observance of a holy Lent.

Here it is, from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer:

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.
This is season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer…


Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas. As my friend JZ would say, “Yes, Virginia (and DC and Maryland) there *is* a Santa Claus.”
St. Nicholas was raised in a wealthy and devout Christian family in the third century. He became Bishop of Myra (which would now be a part of Turkey) and is venerated for his great generosity and care for others. He spent his whole inheritance helping those in need. Among other things, he is said to have thrown bags of gold into the homes of unmarried, dowry-less women to save them from a life a prostitution. God bless him. He also had a thing for helping children and saving sailors from storms at sea.

Somewhere along the line, the St. Nicholas legend became the Santa Claus legend, and the tradition of giving gifts in his honor (like good ole’ St. Nicholas did in his day) was carried to Christmas Day. (Of course, that’s not the only gift influence on Christmas, but part of it.) A coworker pointed out to me that perhaps St. Nicholas is sitting somewhere in heaven, feeling similar to all those people who have birthdays in December, saying, “Man, I just get lumped in with Christmas! Having your day in December stinks!” He turns to St. Patrick and laments, “No fair, you get the whole month of March in your honor!”

Practice some random act of kindness in honor of St. Nicholas today. And if you have an extra bag of gold, by all means pass it along to someone in need.

Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
our ancestors in their generations.
2 The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valor;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
4 those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people’s lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
6 rich men endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes–
7 all these were honored in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.
8 Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
9 But of others there is no memory;
they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
10 But these also were godly men,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;

14 Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on generation after generation.
15 The assembly declares their wisdom,
and the congregation proclaims their praise.

–Sirach 44