Saturday, 28 March 2015

On Being April Fools in Holy Week

April Fool’s Day falls in Holy Week this year. Next Wednesday. The day before the great Triduum of the church year—The Three Days—which begin with the evening Foot Washing and Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, through Good Friday, Holy Saturday and to Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday. It’s the pinnacle of the church year when Advent’s hope and expectation, Christmas’ wonders, Epiphany’s lights, Lenten and Holy Week sombreness finally deliver us, amazed, relieved and joyful, to the Resurrected Jesus Christ.

That April Fool’s Day is the day before is fitting because the word of the cross can, indeed, seem to be folly in so many ways, foolish and something to stumble over (1 Corinthians 1.18-25). Rotten, tragic, undeserved things continue to happen to people. God can seem so silent. Many of my prayers don’t seem to be answered in any way I can perceive.

And yet. Easter comes.

April Fool’s Day fell on Good Friday in 1988. A week before that my mother was healed of arthritis. It happened when I, a relatively new Christian and Anglican at the time, wrote a letter to my father, a Presbyterian, suggesting that he have the Anglican Vicar in the town in which Mum’s hospital was, go and pray for her. Not long afterwards I received a letter from my mother:
…the Vicar of Rotorua came the Friday before Good Friday about tea time on what had been one of my worst days. That morning I hadn’t been able to move without assistance—something I had feared so I was at an absolute low. He came and wheeled me down to our quiet room here at Queen Elizabeth and there in that lovely peaceful place he anointed me and after having had a short and moving little service with me reading the responses. I can’t describe the wonderful feeling of certainty and peace and knowing God’s presence. That feeling stayed with me for days—I slept that night as I hadn’t done for ages and the next morning I woke feeling so much better and since then I have had a steady improvement—so much so that I go home this Friday. I still have difficulty walking and will need a wheel chair for a while but I do better every day—and “I FEEL GOOD”—praise God. The aches and pains are under control—I’m so happy.
My mother was not an Anglican. The “little service” would have been strange to her. She was not healed completely, some pain and mobility issues continued, but she was healed enough so that she was soon playing the organ again at church and was able to dance at my brother’s wedding in 1989. It’s easy to think it foolish to expect such a healing at all, let alone when strangers are involved across denominations and so many miles. We all shared her happiness. We were amazed, relieved and joyful. It also happened to be the year my family and I went off to seminary.

And yet. Easter comes.