I do not believe it a coincidence that the Webster dictionary word of the day today is “pandiculation.” What in the world right? At first, I wasn’t sure how this had anything to do with anything. I opened the app on my phone to look up a couple words from the book I just started, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre De Caussade. The words were “redolent” and “unction.” I am not sure these have anything to do with anything either, but I also know better to assume so.
When I first read “redolent,” I felt taken over by something or maybe the indwelling blooming of something. This made me think of J.R.R. Tolkien and the languages he made up for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Maybe I am just always thinking in terms of those books, but I was transferred to the part where Bilbo and the dwarves are caught by the trolls. Bilbo is stalling, and he tells the trolls they probably shouldn’t risk eating the dwarves because they have “worms in their tubes.” One of the dwarves exclaims, “Yes, we are riddled!” Redolent. Riddled. The combination of syllables in a word should give voice, attempt to, that is, to the complexity and intermingling of the senses. How a word sounds as you read it, if it is a well put together word, should flay the senses to reveal or give a clue to the meaning. “Redolent” means exuding fragrance; aromatic; evocative or suggestive; ambrosial. I couldn’t help but looking up “ambrosial” too because it seemed so high-class, like I wanted to bow before it. Turns out “ambrosia” means the food of the Greek and Roman gods; the ointment or perfume of the gods. The Greek root is “ambrotos,” meaning immortal. Makes sense that the gods would have their own word for food and ointment. And who wouldn’t want to eat ambrosia instead of food? I’m imagining like glowing flower petals. Tasty.
The other word was “unction.” “Unction” means the act of anointing as a rite of consecration or healing; religious or spiritual fervor or expression of such fervor. This comes from the Latin “unguere,” to anoint.
I know I haven’t even arrived at how all this started with “pandiculation.” It means “a stretching and stiffening especially of the trunk and extremities (as when fatigued and drowsy or after waking from sleep); to arouse body when fatigued or drowsy.” Part of Webster’s explanation spoke of the routine of dogs when they wake up, putting their front paws out and lengthening their back, usually while yawning. The Latin past participle is “pandiculari,” “to stretch oneself.” Pandiculation is ultimately derived from “pandere,” meaning “to spread,” also “expand.”
The question remains, what does this have to do with anything? With a pandemic? With shelter-in-place? With the thousands of lives lost? With death? With life? With Easter? With the Resurrection? It turns out it has much to do with all of it. Much to do with today, this Easter Saturday. This day is the long pause, the silence and disorientation following the crucifixion of Jesus. We are not yet fully woke to the risen Lord, to the reality of Life and to our true selves. We are no longer sleeping, as we know death does not have the final say, so our souls stretch and expand, wondering what this means for us. We wonder in the tension and stiffening of this day what is to come. Like the women at the tomb, we prepare in hope for an anointing.
Unguere, my Lord, by your Holy Spirit. Come down upon us, dwell within us, so our lives may be redolent with Your grace and ambrosia for Your table.
In the pandiculation of this Easter Saturday, let our bodies reeducate our souls [Father Jacques Philippe]. Let the stretching and stiffening, arousing from drowsiness, be of mind, body, soul and spirit. Let us be confident this fatigue will not last. Let the pandiculation of our souls, the stretching and expanding, be due to the giving of Your immense Light and Life, a beautiful exchange; as You give us Your heart and we give you ours.