To feel the absence of God

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April 3, 2010 by Nicole

To me, the entire season of Lent seems to culminate on Good Friday, which is today.  And, I think can honestly say that I had a sense of how terrifying  it is to feel the utter and complete absence of God, if only for a moment.

Tonight marks the second year that I have gone to a Tenebrae service on Good Friday, and if you have never had the opportunity to experience one, you should.  There is something about this ceremony  that connects with one’s soul on a powerful and deep level.  One moment in particular, however,  helped me to come to terms with the difference between my illness (depression) and what it must really feel like if you were to be entirely abandoned by God.

It is terrifying.

The tenebrae service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral where I attend mass begins in the evening around dusk, and the church is slowly enveloped in darkness as psalms are read, chants are sung, and candles are extinguished.  After the gospel is read, there is a brief moment of uneasy quiet, and then the noise begins.  The cavernous space is filled by the sound of people pounding and banging on pews, trampling their feet on the floor, and filling the whole building with noise; the purpose is to recall the way in which the  earth and all of creation groaned when Jesus died.

I will preface this by saying that I am really not being melodramatic. That said, tonight I closed my eyes and really immersed myself in the  noise of that moment.  What I experienced was, for lack of a better way to say it, frighteningly disturbing.  The rolling, booming chaos takes on a life of its own.  It roars and growls, sometimes verging on horrible, savage laughter–like Satan and the whole of hell celebrating  its finest hour, its “triumph” over God.  At the same time, it’s like the earth comes alive and really does groan.  It was almost like hearing the whole of creation screaming, begging, and panicking all at the very same moment, shuddering at the evil that has been done.

For a split second, there is also a sense of being completely abandoned.  And I do mean left. In the midst of so much noise in a building full of a few hundred people, I swear that it feels emptier, lonelier, and more dangerous than anything you can even begin to imagine; it reminds me of the panic you felt when you were a kid and got separated from your parents in the grocery store or the mall.

What I realized after this experience is that even when my depression makes me feel like I am alone, I am not alone.  God is always there, like He promises to be.  I am, as I said in an earlier post, probably wandering around somewhere in the shadow of the valley of death. There is a huge difference between feeling alone and feeling like you’ve been abandoned by God–which is not anything I ever want to experience.  After tonight, well, why people choose to abandon God is beyond me. 

Dear God, I am reminded today in a very powerful way of the incredible sacrifice Your Son made, and just how much You and Him loved me.  Thanks for the sadness and solemnity of today–it makes me appreciate Easter morning so muh more. Amen.

Total money in the bank: $102.50

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