It’s easy for the world to feel stagnant as so many of us “shelter in place.” Only if we venture outside, in our makeshift masks, do we notice that our favorite magnolia trees have already bloomed and begun to shed their white and pink petals. We wonder what became of the fifth cat of a family of five around the corner; we haven’t seen them all together in a long time. We observe that traffic is light, and sidewalks are quiet with neighbors who don’t want to stop and chat. And when we return to our homes, we notice the small, curled green shoot on the pothos plant, unfolding over a series of days. Even at home, the world spins on, continuous in its change.
Still, stillness is the best for which many of us can hope. We hope that a deadly virus is not multiplying by the millions in our bodies or those of our loved ones; for those of us who love someone who is already sick, or someone working through pain and exhaustion on their behalf, we hope for a slowdown and a stop. We hope for an end to the sirens careering through the air night and day. We hope for the slope of the graph to stop its precipitous rise.
With Easter coming so late this year, Holy Thursday falls well after the return to Daylight Savings Time, and so the service tonight began in sunlight, with birdsong outside the door that opens onto the small courtyard where the infamous palm-burnings have transpired. You could hear them singing as Sean played the prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite in D Minor. His playing is emotive and intimate—I don’t think I’ll ever forget hearing him playing Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im spiegel last year—and the trilling birds over it began Holy Thursday with a layer of irony: the innocence of the smaller creatures of God not unlike that of the disciples who can’t begin to imagine what’s about to happen next as they eat the Passover meal with Jesus, who certainly can. John, leaning on Jesus’s bosom; Peter, ruining the moment—they know something is off, but they can’t predict just how bad things will get.