“Lacrimosa” and “The Tree of Life”: A Maundy Thursday Reflection

Tonight, following the Maundy Thursday service, I watched the film “Tree of Life.” Little did I know how fitting of a movie this would be for this evening. This film is breathtaking cinematically, with haunting themes of faith, brokenness, and loss.

In the first few minutes you see a couple reacting to the death of their son.
We hear a pastor saying to the mother, “he’s in God’s hands now.”
She responds, “he was in God’s hands the whole time.”

A woman, trying to comfort the mother says an nearly unconscious litany of all the things everyone always days in the face of death: “You have to be strong now…I know the pain will pass in time…Life goes on…You’ve still got the other two…the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”

The mother laments in pleading prayers: “where where you?” “did you know?” “what are we to you?”

In the background we hear “Lacrimosa” (“Weeping”) and a stunning display of a multitude of aspects of creation, from forests to the duplication of cells to bubbling lava.

The film is in no hurry to get back to any linear plot, thereby allowing time for reflection and meditation on the depth of the mother’s pain and the expansiveness of creation.

This made me reflect on God as creative Mother, breathing life into all things. Knowing the depth of the Creator’s love for us, the pain of the brokenness of the world is all the more striking.

The breath of the film focuses on the oldest son of three boys, Jack. We see his life unfold and see him grow from curious to playful to hurtful. We hear his prayers both aloud and in whisper, asking for God’s direction.

In one particularly striking scene, after he experiences a loss of innocence, he looks at his brothers playing and whispers, “How do I get back where they are?”

On this Maundy Thursday that seems to be the question about to be answered. We live in a broken, fractured world. We have hurt and caused hurt. We are in need of a savior.

Tonight we remember the evening of Jesus’ last Thursday:

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
-Matthew 26:36-46

God has indeed provided us a way to get back to innocence, through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. God does not abandon us in our pain and loss, but grieves alongside us, holding us in God’s own hands.

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