M.F.K. Fisher remembers a time when, on Maundy Thursday, there was in Aix-en-Provence a kind of fiesta of reposoirs, or Altars of Repose:
Chapels that were forever otherwise closed to the lay public were open that day…. In the small convents and monasteries the whole main altar, with, as I remember it, no candle or flame burning, was turned into a wall, a solid wall, of the most beautiful flowers that could be found…. In the larger churches the main altar was dim, and to the left of it, rising from floor to ceiling, sometimes perhaps thirty feet high, was the same solid mass of blossoms, now mixed all in a riotous jumble of spring, now austerely one kind of flower, one color.
In today’s passages, there is something of the shock of revelation which those elusive reposoirs must have held. I can never hear Jesus’ great I AM without a kind of internal gasp, a shiver of knowing that glory has been revealed. With Abraham, who bowed to the ground in awe and amazement before the Almighty God of the Covenant, I know that such moments are rare indeed, and not to be trifled with. It is good to be reminded that God is not only the friend and companion of our dailiness, but also a transcendent force beyond all our reckoning, a wonder and a glory elusive to us now, but finally to be revealed. “Before Abraham was, I AM.”