This is the sixth post in Faith Bites’ 2017 Lenten blog series.

I remember kneeling dutifully between my fourth-grade classmates in the darkened Catholic school chapel for our hour of vigil on Holy Thursday. It was afternoon, a rainy one, and it was our class’s appointed time to keep watch with the blessed sacrament. We were to remember Jesus’ time of agonized, obedient prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and his closest friends’ inability to stay awake and pray with him. I could relate. After-lunch time has always been my groggy time. I remember wondering what my friends were praying about, or daydreaming about. I remember my agitation, and my legs getting uncomfortable, and the urge to giggle. But over the course of the hour I lost track of the weather outside and my tingly feet and just gazed at the lone communion wafer and jug of wine on the altar. It’s the first time I can remember forgetting myself in the presence of someone, or something, else.

I remember as a child my extended family’s Good Friday tradition of observing silence from noon to 3 o’clock. Our parish had an early morning service we all attended, and then everyone went home. At midday something was supposed to change. We could read, we could lay in bed, we could sit on the back porch and color our Holy Week coloring books. We just weren’t to talk or make noise. I’m sure the story of Jesus dying on the cross was somewhere with me, but mostly I remember just being. I came to love that time with God, even and especially when I had no idea what that meant.

I also remember (thanks to stories from my teachers) that I was a talkative child and didn’t particularly like to be quiet. As I grew up I liked the music coming from peoples’ cars and storefronts as I walked down the street. It made me want to dance and chat with strangers as if we were at a picnic. When we got a tv in our house in sixth grade, I liked the sounds of shows, or football games, on in the background, even if I had to do homework. So I can’t say I’ve always been attracted to quietude, but I have learned, thanks to church, and Holy Week, to cultivate a love and yearning for God and for moments of quiet.

I think of all this now because I love Holy Week, with its extra processions, sometimes occupying whole city streets with our songs and our prayers, the feel of smooth palms clutched with rustling service bulletins. The preparing for foot washings and vigils, the digging out all the children’s crosses from church basements, borrowing extra basins from neighbors for Maundy Thursday, washing the towels, making sure everyone knows who’s doing which reading on which night. I love it all, and that’s in great part because all the activity and all the showing up we do during Holy Week is ultimately in the service of entering sacred time, and letting this sacred story of Christ’s love, and life and death and incredible newness inhabit our life now.

No matter how active I am, every year I find myself drawn into moments of awe, of unexpected reverence and even astonishment. And I’m thankful for the people in my childhood who built into Holy Week time to be arrested by the Gospel story, time to be stopped in my (our) tracks to pay attention, to pray and listen and ache for God.

Last year during Holy Week our youth group chalked the sidewalks around our house church’s neighborhood here in Greensboro with messages of love and hope and images of whatever new life we could think of. (I mostly draw flowers, not considering myself a great artist.) One of our youth drew a huge black blob covering a whole sidewalk tile, with a hand in the middle and yellow sparks around it.

“What is that?” a neighbor asked as she walked up from the bus stop.

“It’s hell,” our young person said.

“When Jesus died on the cross he went into hell where the people were and opened it up and led them out.”

“Huh,” she said, clearly not believing it really. But also clearly not not believing it.

And she sat down right there and just contemplated the window into God’s mystery that our young person had written on the ground.

“Huh,” I said. And we sat down, too, and watched, and waited, and I prayed to God that indeed, resurrection works quietly and unrelentingly below the surface of our lives, and every once in a while, will crack through the pavement and lead us together into a new life.

The Rev. Audra Abt serves as the Greensboro Area Missioner, accompanying congregations who are seeking to develop community-based mission and ministry relationships as well as serving as pastor for Puerta Abierta (Open Door community) a bilingual house church movement in Greensboro. She also serves as the diocesan Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries.