I wished you a good Lent in my last entry, and here it is Holy Week. Putting the blessed palm behind the crucifix as my old Irish mom used to do, I reflected on how the adulation of the crowd turned so quickly to “crucify him!” And yesterday saw tourists with their cameras in the early part of the day at Notre Dame de Paris, only to end with the flames. One of the themes addressed by the penitential seasons of the religions is suffering. So I will say something about it here.
When we ask for our daily bread in the Lord’s prayer, we are probably intending what the scriptures call the “bread of consolations,” the sweet bread. But there is another bread the scriptures talk about: the “bread of sorrows,” the bitter bread. Both nourish, and both are part of the “daily bread” at one time or another. So when we ask for our daily bread, sometimes it will be bitter. If we resist it, if we will not eat the bread of sorrows when it is offered, we will go away hungry. The growth intended for us will not happen. Maybe the next time it is offered—and it surely will be—we will eat it, and grow in the way that it was intended to nourish us. The sweet bread cannot nourish in the way that the bitter bread does. Both are part of the daily bread. We must learn to trust that what is offered will nourish as only it can. In time, it’s all . . . bread! And for some, it becomes all sweet. Pray for such a reception.
So, yes, suffering nourishes. It is part of what C. S. Peirce calls the “perfection of our universe.” By it we learn trust, and patience, and compassion, to name a few of its benefits. It is carefully woven into the fabric of our lives. It is an essential part of our space-time human experience. It cannot be escaped. It will push us to solve problems. Yes, suffering helps to resolve suffering! This is hard to see in the thick of things. When the workers go in to clean up the water damage after yesterdays horrific fire in Notre Dame, they may not be able to see the crucial roll they play in the next step, and the next step, toward the restoration of the cathedral. But their suffering and surrender to it is crucial for the restoration. In fact, they are a direct line to the photos years down the road that will be shared by tourists of the “newly restored Notre Dame!” And our donations in the heat of initial fervor and generosity: they too play a part in these photos. We may be dead and gone when these photos are taken and shared (however that is done in those days), but have had our part in it all the same. Notre Dame has been being restored for its 800 plus years of being. All being is being restored all the time, here in space and time. “Behold, I make all things new!” he says at the end of the Book of Revelation. Our job is not to resist change, painful as it is sometimes, but to go with it. Surrender to the flow of life! So much suffering for ourselves and others could be avoided if we did not resist change and the suffering it occasions. Death and resurrection, loss and gain—that is the space-time rule we live under.
So, the mantra for this week: Bitter or sweet, take and eat! The daily bread, that is. Before long, all our experience is “just bread,” and growth producing. And if we are open to it, like children receiving from loving parents what they know the children need—if we are open to it, it is all . . . sweet!
Love and more love, this Holy Week.
All weeks are Holy!