Resurrecting the World

April 22, 2011
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I am not a very religious person, in fact I'm only moderately religious and quite unconventional in my beliefs. I call myself an Episcopalian, mostly because that's what I was raised to be and what I know best, though I went to a Catholic school for four years. However, I don't believe in a vengeful god, nor do I believe in a god that kills to prove a point. To put it quite simply, my God is one of love and acceptance. My God is genderless, however I refer to God as 'He' because that, too, has been ingrained in me by my Christian upbringing. However, despite all my reservations regarding the specifics of Christianity, I do attend church regularly and am on the acolyte schedule. Which is how I found myself suited up in a white robe on a Thursday evening, helping at the Maundy Thursday service near the end of Holy Week.

I am not one for penance, and therefore do not like the Christian season of Lent because its basically a whole month devoted to penance and humility. I understand the theory behind it, and I've got the basics of almost all the teachings memorized since I've heard them my whole life, but I personally believe that being solemn for a whole month is overkill. If churches kept records of who was and was not in attendance each Sunday, I probably would be absent most often during Lent. However, I find that I quite enjoy the strange bareness of the Maundy Thursday service; I enjoy the stripping of the altar, watching as the candles are lit at the Altar of Repose, how nothing but those candles light the sanctuary after all the lights have been extinguished and silence reigns supreme. I enjoy the fact that no one is preaching fire and brimstone from the podium (not that you get much of that as an Episcopalian, but Lent is when you get the most) and yelling at you to repent.

So as I stood with the other acolytes this last Maundy Thursday and watched the two priests and the deacon wash the rough stone altar with a water-and-vinegar concoction, I reveled in the proceedings. For the first time I managed to set aside my naturally cynical, sarcastic inner dialogue and just appreciate the moment. Instead of scoffing to myself and thinking “Washing the body of Christ, suuuure,” I stood there and inhaled the sweet scent of the incense as it mixed with the vinegary tang to create a surprisingly pleasant spicy smell and appreciated the symbolism. As I looked around our normally cheerful church which always had at least two candles burning in it and saw complete darkness – other than the thirty candles illuminating the Altar of Repose – I felt connected to the congregation in a way that I never had before. We were all there to witness the stripping of Christ, and in the process we ourselves bared our souls to the Lord.

Helping to strip the church bare, to expose surfaces that were covered during the rest of the year, made me almost able to believe in Christ's death and subsequent resurrection. This specific bit of Christianity has always been a tripping point for me, because normally something has to be shown to me before I can believe it. No one has recently risen from the grave, and therefore I find it difficult to believe that one person did it a long time ago with absolutely no record except for the writings of the disciples. Perhaps that is blasphemy, perhaps that can get me excommunicated, perhaps that makes me a horrible Christian, but there you have it. I struggle to come to grips with the resurrection, one of the cornerstones of my religion. But on Maundy Thursday I could almost believe that it was true, I could almost believe that hundreds of thousands of years ago a man only a little older than myself let himself be killed in order to save future sinners. Which is why, after the service was done and almost everyone had left – some stayed to pray, and there would be someone there until the next morning – I walked softly up to the altar and prayed.

Kneeling in the darkness watching the play of candlelight across shadows I prayed for the one things I want most in this world of ours: peace. Jesus – supposedly – saved us from our sins, but who will save us from ourselves? Who will be the person to find the words that will finally bring peace to this beautiful, mysterious, dying world of ours? I would like to be that person, I would like to find those words and be able to negotiate peace between all of God's children. Be them Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindi, Buddhist, Mormon, or any of the thousands of religions present in this world, they are all God's people, and none of them deserve to die. Violence is never the answer, it is never the best option, and it never permanently solves anything. Which is why I prayed not for better weapons or more aggressive leaders, but for words. I prayed with all my heart for the right words to soothe our injured, hurting world. I prayed for the ability to be more than who I've been for the last eighteen years and be what the world needs: an amazing peacemaker.

My birthday is the day before Easter this year, and so I asked God to renew me the same way He renewed Christ. Except that I do not desire a second life or to become rich and famous, I would like to find the ability within myself to be more patient, more diplomatic, a better negotiator and less argumentative. I enter into legal adulthood, and hopefully into the world as a new person with the ability to change the world in a way that benefits everyone. I know with all my heart that God will do all he can to help me, all I ask now is that the world gives me a chance. Let me help you.

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This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

HisPurePrincess This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 9, 2011 at 11:15 am

Just to be sure, are you a girl?  Anyway, I liked this a lot.  If was very soft and like a candleflame.  I liked the last paragraph the best.

p.s. I don't think girls should be preacher, but they can be teachers.  :)

Vespa replied...
May 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm
Yes, I'm a girl. And as far as being a priest goes, the Episcopal Church allows women to become priests - both the priests at my church are women. However, the point is null because I have no desire to become one. Thanks for the comment, though, and I'm glad you liked the article :)
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm
I strongly suggest that you replace the 'raving religious fanatics' on the podium. The congregation of the world could use your wisdom.
Vespa replied...
May 7, 2011 at 3:45 am
Thank you, but I don't think I would make a very good priest. First of all, some of the things I would like to teach come very close to blasphemy (if they aren't already there), and secondly, I think I can be of more use in the political side of things. Not that I want to be president or anything, but some type of international lawyer associated with the U.N. sounds more useful than another priest. But thank you for the suggestion, I'm honored that you think my writing is wise.
Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 10, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Ah, my dear Vespa, all of the greatest thinkers are blasphemous to some degree.

Well, I suppose you'd excel in politics as well. :) A lot of things need to be turned around.

Vespa replied...
May 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm
Too true :) I'm glad you think so highly of my abilities to become a tool for change and social revolution.
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