Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Tree Looms

In Norse tradition, Odin sacrifices Himself to Himself by hanging on Yggdrasil, the world tree, for nine nights, wounds himself with a spear, and dies. He wakes with the knowledge of the whole universe, contained in the Runes. This comes from a 13th century poem, so Christianity and Norse Paganism had coexisted for about 300 years at the time this was written. It's entirely possible the story has been influenced by the Crucifixion, as hanging from a tree is not a normal method of sacrifice nor punishment for the Norse. Scholars are divided on the subject.

Today is Holy Thursday, the traditional observance of the Last Supper, where Jesus partakes of the unleavened bread and glasses of wine, telling his followers these are his body and blood. He also did a curious thing, he washed his disciples' feet, and he gave them a new commandment. I won't repeat it, I'm sure you know it.

In the midst of all this fellowship, this love between friends and family, this observance of the suffering of his people, and the joy of being free men, he knew that his end was coming. Yet, he taught, he served, he reclined, he teased. He teased Peter, he teased Judas. He knew what was coming, because later, he prays in the garden for the path to be different, to have the strength to go on.

And yet, he didn't let his impending end, the darkness of betrayal, the shadow of the cross, or anything else bring him down. He loved, he served, he taught, he ate and drank, and he continued on. Until the end came, he did all he could to make sure his friends knew he loved them, whatever their failings, whatever their successes.

Now, after the dinner has been eaten, the wine has been drunk, the stories told, the lessons taught, he prays in the garden, and we pray with him. We watch, we wait. We hold vigil. We know that when the authorities, lead by us, come for this man, we will scatter. Some of us will stand and try to fight, but he knows there is no fighting, and he stops us. Some of us will seek him out in the darkest hour, and stand with him, watching as he passes. Some of us huddle in a room for days, waiting for word of our master, fearing for our lives, hoping for a last minute reprieve. Some of us will despair, and turn our backs on forgiveness and wealth, choosing a tree ourselves.

There is no separation between these things. We are the betrayer, we are the betrayed. We are the swordsman, we are the soldier. We are the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the disciples, the Romans, the Jews. We sit at dinner,  we give a new commandment, we wash our feet, we stand in the garden, we flee to the room, we stand at the foot of the cross, we huddle around a fire, and deny we know ourselves. We are accused, we question, we mock, we condemn ourselves to death.

There is only one more day. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. We sacrifice ourselves to ourselves on a tree.

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