Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

Today, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of the most solemn week in the Christian liturgical year. So many special services mark this week that it is almost necessary to take vacation to participate in them all and even more necessary to do so if you are choir member. I remember that singing the liturgy for Holy Week took about twenty-four hours, including rehearsal time and was worth every second of it.

Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday are marked by processions. Good Friday has the prostration of the ministers before the service begins. (Maybe we should require this of politicians before they are sworn in.) Tenebrae ends in darkness that will end with the kindling of the new fire, the lighting of the Paschal candle and the passing of the light from person to person as the candles are lit at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. One of the two times of the year when services are traditionally held in the dark of the night (the other being Christmas Eve Midnight Mass) this makes the liturgy especially poignant and set apart. It also brings in the music of matins, one of the monastic hours which lay people do not usually hear. "And very early on the first day of the week, they went onto the sepulchre and found it lying empty, alleluia", is the verse that I particularly remember and will sing myself until I am hoarse.

The ancient symbolism is ever new and so packed and rich that it can never grow old or be completely explored in one life-time. Our need to believe in the after life, especially after middle-age when most likely we have lost our own parents and are looking at our own mortality is fulfilled in these liturgies which proclaim Christ's death freely taken on to free us from sin and death and His most glorious resurrection in which we hope for our own.

When I was growing up, we would turn the television off on Wednesday night and not turn it on again until Sunday night (we were Maverick fans and there was no VCR in those days--let alone Tivo). I think I will try to do this this week and see what it does to my schedule, my mind and my dreams.

A blessed and fruitful Holy week to everyone. I am grateful for the time I spent singing in a choir, for growing up Catholic before Vatican II and for my parents who gave me their faith and their traditions. This is a good week for remembrance as well as prayer.

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