So here we are in Holy Week, and while tomorrow, Maundy Thursday, I’ll be thinking about Jesus in the Garden, begging his friends to stay with him, to pray with him, and all the anguish that follows before we emerge blinking into the light of Easter resurrection, today my thoughts are bent in a different direction.
This week is not just the Christian Holy Week, but also of course the Jewish Passover. The last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a friend’s Passover seder, and what’s reverberating in my head right now is one of the children’s songs traditionally sung during the meal, Dayenu. Dayenu means, roughly, ‘it would have been enough for us’ or ‘it would have been sufficient’. Some of the lyrics (in English) go like this:
Had He permitted us to cross the sea on dry land, and not sustained us for forty years in the desert, Dayenu!
Had He sustained us for forty years in the desert, and not fed us with manna, Dayenu!
Had He fed us with manna, and not ordained the Sabbath, Dayenu!
Had He ordained the Sabbath, and not brought us to Mount Sinai, Dayenu!
You get the idea. There are 15 of these stanzas, and each one concludes an affirmation: It would have been enough. Enough for what? To be satisfied? To be rescued? The Tanach Study Center explains that the answer is ‘enough to praise God’. Reason enough to celebrate. Reason enough to be grateful.
Lent gives us six weeks to eschew excess and appreciate the grace of enough before we enter a season of more-than-enough. It also gives us a chance to notice where there is most definitely not enough. Where there is not enough food, not enough love, not enough dignity. And if we find that lack in our own lives, can we find help? And if we find that lack in the lives of others, can we give out of our newly recognised abundance?
This is a reflective week. A holy one. Perhaps you’ve been contemplating the Stations of the Cross. Perhaps you’re attending Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. I think as part of my Holy Week reflection, I’m going to try to write some of my own Dayenu stanzas, a sort of glorified gratitude list to mark the end of Lent. What would go on your list?
‘There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.’
—Marilynn Robinson, Gilead