Friday, April 10, 2009

I Thirst: Good Friday Meditation

The arena was packed. Thousands of fans gathered last night in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., myself included, to watch the BU Terrier men’s hockey team take on the University of Vermont Catamounts. And we were thirsty. The team was thirsty, the coaches were thirsty, the fans were thirsty. And indeed, our thirst was quenched. Although, I can say from the standpoint of the next morning, after all that screaming, I am thirsty again in a much more literal sense.

Our thirst was quenched, finally, by a 5-4 victory over the Catamounts. What is a Catamount, you may be asking? Well, as it turns out, it doesn’t really exist, or else it may be another name for a cougar. But existent or not, the Catamounts made us fight to quench our thirst. Terriers up 2-0 at the end of the first period. Catamounts up 3-2 in the second, only to tie it at 3 a piece by the end of period. Catamounts ahead 4-3, tied again, Terriers go ahead with five, and then defend the lead to the bitter end. Thirst, it turns out, is not so easily quenched. We must strive for it, work for it, persevere until the final buzzer.

Do not misunderstand me. I am in no way equating the thirst for victory in sport with the thirst Jesus endured as he hung on the cross in the scorching near-east Sun, moments away from death. Thirst employed as a means of torture, 2000 years ago or in our very own day, is one of the most horrific and damning acts of human-on-human violence that could ever be perpetrated, second only to the horror of thirst imposed upon millions around the world by sheer neglect.

But, if we are to understand anything of the agony of thirst and its quenching fulfillment, it can only be through the mediation of our own personal, frail and human experience. What is it that we know of thirst? Thirst is a passion. It is a passion in the sense that it is a suffering. Two weeks ago the choir sang the passion of Christ as recorded in the gospel according to St. John and set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, the story of the suffering of Christ in the days leading up to his crucifixion.

Thirst is a passion too in the sense that it drives toward fulfillment. Passion is a motivation. Thirst motivates us to drink that our thirst might be quenched. Passions may be positive motivations. Frederick Buechner said that vocation is where our deep passion meets the world’s great need. Passions are often negative motivations. Passion in the form of suffering drives the one who suffers to seek its alleviation. The passion of thirst orients us toward quenching grace.

The impassioned thirst of Christ upon the cross will be quenched come Easter morning. We, with two thousand year thick lenses through which to glimpse the crucified and risen Christ, know already what is to come. Our thirst, perhaps, is lessened by the hope of the promise of resurrection. Jesus, even if he believed that he would be resurrected, could not know such to be the case with anything like certainty. His thirst upon the cross is a thirst with only the barest glimmer of resurrection hope. There are many, too many, in our world today whose thirst all too literally knows little if any hope of quenching drink, let alone quenching grace.

Easter is coming, but today is Good Friday. Today we sit: dry, parched, thirsty for living water. We see, hear, feel Christ crucified, forsaken by God, and thirsty. We acknowledge our own thirst, and hopefully await quenching grace.