Holy Week Spiritual Practice: Releasing Idols

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When God Walks Away: A Dark Night Companion

Each day of Holy Week, I will post spiritual practices from my book, When God Walks Away. The book (pictured) likens the dark-night journey to the events of Holy Week. Since engaging with art can be a spiritual practice, you will notice references to music, films, and visual artworks in addition to more traditional forms of spiritual discipline.

I hope these practices provide nourishing soul food as you make your way toward Easter.

Books:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Who in this book did not have cause to rethink themselves? Austen, in her lighthearted but sharply satirical style, invites us to think again about what—and whom—we idolize. (The BBC miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth is an excellent adaptation of Austen’s book.)

Sabbath by Wayne Muller: A needful read for anyone (like me!) who equates work for God with love of God. Its short chapters and hands-on spiritual practices make a pragmatic as well as a thoughtful read.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Hmmmm…what would you say Scrooge idolized? And if he were sent, Marley-style, to my chambers, what word would he have for me?

Film:

Footloose directed by Herbert Ross, Chocolat directed by Lasse Hallström, and Babette’s Feast directed by Gabriel Axel: Each film begins with the expected—a status-quo churchology embodied in Footloose’s grieving pastor and father, in Chocolat’s repressive mayor, and, in Babette’s Feast’s sisters who divinized their stern father. Ironically, the “pagans” in the films (Ren, Vianne and Babette) free the “professional Christians” to enjoy the Christ adventure.

Endurance Exercises:

Basket List: Turn a journal (a spiral notebook will serve) into your wonderings basket. Write down your theological questions and ask Jesus’ guidance about them. In a year’s time, look back on your “Basket List” and see where your wonderings led.

Life Mission Statement: After a season of discernment (see the “Ignatian Discernment Exercise” in Appendix K), craft a statement for your life that defines your highest value and how you wish to live daily in the world. Let the statement be less about doing and more about being.

Music:

“Things We Leave Behind” by Michael Card: What the mystics call detachment, Card describes through gospel stories. Card’s real-world theology calls it straight: it costs to let go, and freedom is worth any cost.

“Hi-De-Ho That Old Sweet Roll” by Blood, Sweat & Tears: Who can resist heaven described as “an old sweet roll”? The song explores the cost of living too much for the adoration of others and a freeing confrontation with the devil.

“Desperado” by the Eagles: Here’s some old West, card playin’ spirituality set to a tune that weeps. Is it a coincidence that desperado sounds so much like desperate?

Visual Art:

Milo of Crotona by Pierre Puget*: A mesmerizing, disturbing statue about a troubling, terrifying myth. Milo was so taken with his own strength that he tried to uproot a tree bare-handed, got his arm stuck, and was eaten alive by a lion. Let us hope our idols do not lead us to such desperate ends (bad pun intended!).

* Find this artwork in your neighborhood or Internet library.

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