My daughters were complaining the other day about the “long readings” during Holy Week. “We know the stories”, they said. My wife and I have been encouraging them in return to listen carefully to the readings during for “something new” that they have not realised before.
I have rather taken that advice to heart myself in the last few days.
At the Maundy Thursday service at St Aloysius, I noted that the Latin word for “clean” (in the footwashing reading from St John) is the adjective “mundus”. I noted the connection between that adjective and the Latin noun for “world” or “cosmos”, which is also “mundus”. The connection seems to be in the idea of neat and beautiful appearance. But more than that, I reflected on the cultic ideas behind the category of “clean”. In the OT, a distinction was made between the “clean” and “unclean” and between the “sacred/holy” and the “secular”. According to my Seminary OT professor, Dr Kleinig, the natural state for anything God has made is “clean and secular”. Something which is “clean and secular” could be sanctified as “sacred/holy” by consecration for use in or access to worship, ie. for contact with the divine presence. Alternatively, it could be defiled and become “unclean”, which would put it at the other end of the spectrum from “sacred/holy”. My thought was just that the word “mundus” seems to combine into one the idea of both “clean” and “secular/worldly”. It is a good state for things to be in, for anything from the “mundus” which is thus made “mundus/clean” may also enter into the sanctifying presence of God. Just a thought.
Another new thing occured to me when hearing Matthew’s account of the Resurrection at the Easter Vigil. We are told that at the appearance of the angel, the soldiers “became as dead men”. I tried picturing that. Did they have heart attacks? or did they just faint? In either case, the suprising thing is that these hardened, tough, strong Roman military types were overcome by fear of the angel, while the Jewish women who had come to the tomb were not. True, they were also affected by fear (the angel tells them “Do not be afraid”) but they don’t react with fainting or heart attacks! Was Matthew having a bit of a go at the Romans at this point? And at the same time was he highlighting the strength of the faithful women? Again, a new thought.