Thursday, March 28, 2013

thursday: the supper; the garden


Into the whisper of morning, comes the slow crawl of light through trees by the wadi where we slept last night. We have decided to stay in Bethany near the garden, to stay together and do the passover. It was difficult to send the message to all, so dispersed had we become. James and Bartholomew are still missing from the day in the Temple so Andrew and Philip and I slept outside near the wadi, so as to better be seen by them whenever they came. I slept alone, then Junia came and slept beside me and I dreamt all night of terrible things. Omens and portents and horrors too great to be imagined. I cried out over and over and Junia wiped my brow and gave me water. Eventually, I looked up to see myself held in the arms of my Lord. Junia had slipped away and instead the teacher held me close, rocking me with greatest tenderness. Singing to me in psalms.

"Do not be afraid," he whispered in my ear, even as he rocked me. Eventually we fell asleep this way, my head cradled in his shoulder.

Now the dawn has broken and we are awake, he and I, huddled close together. When I open my eyes, he is staring in my face. He pushes the hair from my eyes, takes hold of my hand. I see then that he is weeping again.

"What is it?," I say quietly.
He shakes his head.
"This will be the last time we are alone together." He says it simply. I start to cry but he hushes me gently, sweetly and kisses my hands. "We will meet again. I will come to you first. I promise." I do not understand this and start to tremble.

The others from the camp are starting toward us, also awake. Two of the men see us and look away, thinking the teacher has lain with me. My heart sinks into the ground: already, I am starting the day in shame. The earth is cold and damp, the grasses soaked with dew beneath me. My Lord rises, takes his garment to go and pray. I lie where I am, huddled into the earth, thinking over what he has just said and holding the last of his warmth to me.

Later in the day when we are all gathered, my Lord sends someone to secure a room in an inn. When the man returns he tells us that the only place he could find is not big enough for all.
Almost right away there is talk about leaving behind the women. Oddly, by this time, the twelve have begun to accept that our Lord wants us near; instead it is the new disciples who are agitated. They insist we must be left behind. Angered by them, m
y Lord says he will take only the twelve and myself and a few others. I beg the teacher for Junia to come and he agrees. Thaddeus, who has seen the room, insists that there will not be room for the women at table. In the end, it is decided we can come and be present, but cannot eat until after. We will sit on the sides of the room. I am pleased enough with this, as it is better than nothing at all!

When the hour comes, my Lord performs the role of priest and does all the blessings. They recline and drink and break the bread and eat. The lamb is brought in and they eat heartily. Then my Lord insists that we eat too and while we do so he makes the others wait and watch. Finally, it is time for the last cup, after the grace. My Lord takes off the priestly garments he had put on for the night and lays them to one side.
"Bring them to the table," he says now to the twelve, but he is referring to us.
"You must never deny them the table again. All are welcome at my table. Everyone. Surely you must know this by now. We have eaten with tax collectors and Samaritans and the unclean. These women are ours, they are clean. Think of these words of mine and never fail them."

The men are shamed and move to allow us in: myself and Junia, and Mary and Martha our friends, the sisters of Lazarus and two other women who have been with us from the start. Staring into the table, he pours the wine again, blesses it and looks at us all. His eyes are anxious and sad, full of longing for us. His gaze falls on me and I smile. He is mournful as he speaks.
"Love," he says, "is all that matters. You must all love one another or you do not love me."

There is silence as we feel the weight of this. I steal a look at John with whom I have been hardly speaking. There are many such moments and looks to one another. These have not been easy days.

My Lord then turns to Judas, who is sitting near to him, once again. He kisses him and then, when the disciple has started to weep, speaks gently.
"You as well I love."
Not long afterward, Judas rises and leaves us. I think of the time in the temple yesterday, of my strange foreboding. And the letter he drew in the ashes of our camp that night. I do not understand and yet I know everything. "The hour has come," my Lord has been saying. And I am beginning to see what hour he means and what it is that is coming. Quietly he lifts the cup as if for the final blessing after all. Instead he tells us stories and sayings.

He tells us that soon he will be gone. He instructs us how to continue in his absence. How we should take the wine of festivals and drink it as if it were his blood. To eat the bread of our festivals, as if it were he himself we were eating. He speaks of his body and how it no longer belongs to him, but to others. However, he will always belong to us, always be with us. He tells us not to be afraid, and not to fear his pain. He tells us we will all suffer greatly because of him but that his father and he himself will never desert us. He talks of his father, the God of our ancestors, to whom he will soon be returning.

In all these things, we recline in amazed silence, unable to fathom what he is meaning and filled with foreboding. I feel my heart and my kidneys slide like streams and fail to sustain me. I can see it now, the message of my dreams and of my waking fears.

"How will they do it?," I hear myself say, out of turn, out of place. As usual, drawing stares. He shakes his head and doesn't answer.
He looks at me, as if speaking to me directly.
"Soon you will know me again."

We are quiet a long while, as the torches and candles dim their light and begin to fade.

Not long after that, he takes some of the men with him and goes out to walk in the Kidron. I beg to come, but Matthew denies me. When they have gone, I sneak out after them, following at a distance. My Lord leads them into Gethsemane, to pray. I stay behind rocks where I might watch and pray also, as always I do. It is terribly dangerous but I do not even think of the danger anymore. My Lord instructs them all to listen closely, to watch out for him while he prays and to not fall asleep. But no sooner has he left their sides than the food and drink take liberty with their eyes and they slide away. I take advantage of their sleeping to creep a little closer.

My Lord is in a terrible anguish, such as I have never seen. He pleads with his father to spare him the cup of trial. He does not intuit my presence, as often he has in the past. I want to run to him, anoint his brow, bathe his feet as he did for us all before we ate this night. I want to hold him as he held me in the dawn that began this very day. But it is as if a wall has now dropped between us which time has hurled us against, and which nothing can break.

He truly does not see me or know I am there - it is so unusual. It is for this reason that I know it is unfolding exactly as he said. It is now that I understand that even he no longer can control it. It is as if in submitting to the future, he is less with us, less one of us. I am no longer scared and now am only sad. He is gone already, although he is here. I silently wish I had not come out to follow them.

Twice, he returns to the disciples and rouses them, asking them to stay close and keep watch. And both times, they fall asleep again. His prayers become more agitated and frightened until at last something in him breaks and he submits into a quiet trance of peace. In this moment, the wind returns, lifting the branches of the trees and ruffling all our garments. I huddle again behind the rock, nearly asleep myself.

After a while of hearing nothing, I look round again to see where he is. To my amazement, he is asleep, just like the others, though apart from them. From my place of watching, I fall on my knees now and pray to God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my might. I beg God to spare him, to give him to us for more time so that we might learn more and learn it better. The wind scatters my whispered pleas into the brambles and the night shadows. Eventually, I just rest in silence. In front of me is my beautiful Lord, curled up like a child.

Soon I know I must make my way back or I will be missed and Junia will come looking for me. I look at him one more time, then start back into the valley. Behind me, the stars above the place where they are sleeping are ranged like watchful angels, the holy ones who never sleep. I search them with the quiet of my heart and see in the direction of Nazareth, the subtle blinking of his natal star. I hold it to my heart all the way back to the inn, guided by it, and stumbling in darkness.

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