Thursday, April 09, 2009

the empty mouse house

when i was in first grade at st. ignatius loyola school we used to go to church for holy days of obligation. this was back in the days when i didn't know i'd been baptized episcopalian. i went to catholic school b/c i wasn't zoned for a good public school and my mother and her mother went to convent schools so on it went with me. i used to look at the tabernacle which was very fancy, made of marble with golden doors, and i pretended it was a house for church mice. i call it the mouse house to this day.

so, tonight we had our maundy thursday service at my church and the foot washing is always a funny thing (i had my foot done - we only do one). i love the part where simon peter tells jesus - you won't wash my feet! only to change it to - wash not only my feet but my hands and head also! what a doofus. i love simon peter because he is the disciple who consistently puts his foot in his mouth (let's build a booth on this mountainside where we saw jesus transfigured! i can walk on water ... oops! no i can't! what a dope.). he is just like me - duh!

anyway, it was a festive kind of service (for episcopalians, honestly, i cannot WAIT to get to africa and see how they worship there) with all of us standing around the altar table, passing baskets of bread and cups of wine to each other for eucharist.
then, we went back to our pews and the priests stripped the altar and sanctuary of all decorations while a quartet chanted the 22nd psalm. it's always very moving for me and really gets me into the spirit of the mourning and loss the disciples must have felt during these few days. at my church, the priests remove pew cushions, hymnals, books of common prayer, those table cloth things (there's some fancy liturgical name for them but i don't know what it is). the final thing to be removed is the consecrated bread and wine that is in the mouse house. there is an eternal flame over the mouse house and that is extinguished. then, the bread and wine are taken away, and the mouse house door is left open, an empty mouse house exposed. i am telling you it gets me every time! i don't believe in transubstantiation per se but it hits me like a ton of bricks every year when i see that! and i think to myself - i miss him! where is he?! when will he be back? i get really lost and sad.