Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

‘We've learned over the years,
you have to stand in line early and pray,’ Sam said.
Black Friday. I shudder to think of it, but then, here I am, calm and peaceful and undisturbed by the noise and heat of human desire, blind want, rushing to satisfy itself in the annual monetary coronary and ‘vanity fair’ of the day after Thanksgiving. Seated beside an open window, listening to the gentle movement of tree branches in the wind under an overcast sky, I think, and I write, with only my empty coffee cup now as a witness.

For me it has been a quiet, pleasant morning. No intensely red sunrise today, or golden capped Mount Hood reflecting the first rays. The morning started out gray and has stayed that way, but no rain. We will have more of that as we approach the winter months, and then snow too, but today nothing more than soft twilight, perhaps all day, under the ‘waters above the firmament.’ I relax and muse while others work, selling and buying.

Everything in creation mirrors the saving passion of the ‘Lamb slain before the foundation of the world,’ in greater or lesser similitude, if we only have eyes to see. In Orthodoxy, we memorialize, we re-enact and remember, Christ’s last week on earth as an unresurrected man, in the week leading up to Easter, calling it Holy Week and, of course, the day of His resurrection, Pascha, that is, Passover, for He has made the true Passover journey.

Then—even though for most it is an impossible ideal—we superimpose on every week of the year a remembrance and make attempts at memorializing that same final week of our Lord: Wednesday, the day of His betrayal by Judas, and Friday, the day of His death by crucifixion, we set aside as meatless days, in symbol reliving the grief of these events from their occurrence until this moment, as they still affect the flow of time and space.

The Thursday of His last week, when He celebrated His mystical supper with His disciples, has been set aside in most cultures until the present one of ‘thank God it’s Friday’ indulgence, as the proper day for feasting and getting together—hence, the placing of the American holiday of Thanksgiving on a Thursday. Unable to sustain such a break in the new culture of three-day weekend Mondays, Canada moves the holiday there for convenience.

But the pattern unrecognized by the world which yet underlies its creation and preservation and will someday close its doors finally and utterly, that holy week of the rending of our old nature by the God-man, and the mending of it again by sutures not sewn by human hands, yes, that even gives form and function to this week, the feast of Thanksgiving, followed by the fast of Black Friday, when we forego food and even sleep to be ‘first in line.’

How strange that two weeks can be so closely linked without being recognized! The first is God’s answer to our question, and is the second, perhaps, our answer to His, ‘Do you love Me?’ In the depths of human nature is the same longing in everyone—life, love, joy. These can be ours by returning to the Source, our heavenly Father, in the way He provides, the royal road of the Cross of our heavenly Brother, Jesus Christ, following the heavenly, life-creating Spirit.

This week, and the nearly thirty days that follow from it, reveal to ourselves and to others ‘where our treasure is’ and where too our hearts. ‘Let us give thanks to the Lord our God!’ intones the priest. ‘It is meet and right!’ we respond, tracing the cross on our breasts, participating knowingly or unknowingly in the sacrifice made for the sins of the whole world, even ours. Do we understand, that all we can ever purchase or possess will never be a better buy?

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