Spirits were high around the table that night. Sharing the story about that ass--not Peter, though he could be so maddening, believing everything he said was absolutely right even if it exactly contradicted what he’d said the day before--I mean the donkey’s colt they’d absconded with. Leading up to the moment they felt frightened, but once the words, “because the Lord has need of it,” came tumbling from their mouths it was all they could do to keep from laughing. So insane, and yet, it worked! Now, they didn’t try to stop the laughter, it flashed golden in their faces, waving warmly through the room.
Holy Thursday mass. My mind settles back into my body, resting on a smooth wood pew, luminously candlelit. This is a feast day, I’ve been told. It is also my birthday. I was going to conveniently dismiss the latter. There was enough happening already without having to draw attention to myself. But a friend came to town and insisted on full, extravagant, celebration. The day was spent surrounded by friends, food, a glowing positive energy--no thought of tomorrow. The night before we’d tried to sleep but couldn’t stop laughing, not that we really tried. Our bodies bucked the propriety of bedtime knowing the laughter would be stilled by morning, no matter what we did that night. Let it roll, while the momentum is good.
Somehow the Beloved saw that shadow of what was to come. When Jesus rose his friend said, “Stay awhile. Can’t we just stay here a little longer. Stay with me.” He felt an impulse to grasp at Jesus, to pin him to that place, to that feeling, to that moment, knowing once they moved from the table a spell would be broken. They would walk out the door and into the looking glass where wine becomes blood and bread, a body broken. Can’t we just stay here and hold on?
I remembered a night that had been buried in a decade of days. A young woman, with legs like toothpicks stuck in a potato, wearing a child’s red t-shirt with the number 3, boldly white, and a a delivery man’s brown pants with a black stripe down the side. She had her arms wrapped around her beloved, his wrapped around her, fingers hooked in the belt loops of the brown pants, lest she disappear. She was so small, he tried to put her in his pocket but they found she didn’t fit, her fat heart not yet leaned by living. Internally she battled between going responsibly to bed and never, never leaving this spot, never releasing this man or this moment because she knew in the morning nothing would be the same. Better to stay awake for one more hour, better wakeful weeping in the garden than to sleep and say “I never knew you.”
Stay. The disciple whispered. Candles lighting the sanctuary where extinguished and the darkness laid it’s weight on my spirit. Stay. My heart whispered. I imagined the disciples, what would they do without him? How could the energy that had drawn them together and inspired them to live that new abundant life be sustained without the presence that had brought it in the first place? How can any of us press on with hollow Absence holding the space of Love’s presence? “Can’t we just stay here?” I plead, leaning toward the lighted room and laughter. Then the communion song came, “Stay with me,” the choir sang Christ’s words, “remain with me,” asking the same thing, but differently. The almost identical opposite. “If you want to be with me, stay with me, come along--can you drink from this cup?” He moved on, to the garden, the trial, the cross, the tomb. And I wished he could put me in his pocket so I didn’t have to choose.