Thursday, March 25, 2010

Holy Week Reflections

This was my contribution to our diocese's magazine for March-April, but it was not chosen by the editors so it wasn't included in the issue. I thought that Holy Week, which begins with our magnificent Passion Sunday liturgy, would be a good time to share it in this venue. Hope you like it.

A confession I finally feel confident enough to make: I dislike Lent. Well, I mean, I used to dislike Lent. Nowadays I look forward to it, especially for Holy Week and the Easter Triduum. But I really dreaded it for years.

Did anything specific precipitate the change? Of course. I met a group of creative, generous and inclusive people: liturgists. Their knowledge and interpretations of the church’s documents generated the most dynamic and meaningful liturgies that I had ever experienced–particularly during the Church’s #1 liturgical season: Easter–and its predecessor, Lent.

The first time I witnessed the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, told not by a reader standing at a lectern, fine as he/she may be, but from Sarah seated in a rocking chair relating the “family history,” I couldn’t believe my eyes–and ears.

The rendering of the Passion of Jesus, by a narrator while the Jesus figure traveled through the darkened church singing Jesus’ lines, brought Christ’s journey to his death and resurrection to a whole new vision for me.

Once during a vigil service of a Sunday in Lent, after the gospel reading, the followup reflection was told through the perspective of a “bug in the rug”–who happened to be in the room with the apostles. The reflection was solid, the packaging refreshing, and the memory of it long-lasting.

One Lent the foyer of the church became a mini-desert--large enough to seem real and get the point across, yet small enough not to interfere with the actual comings and goings of the people.

Now don’t misinterpret all this: I’m not talking about children’s liturgies or anything even approaching irreverence or gimmicks. These are nothing short of marvelously creative expressions, within the rites and formularies, to bring new light and contemporary cultural expressions to the same messages that have been handed down throughout the centuries.

These expressions bring a new angle, a different slant, a fresh look that enable me to see more deeply and newly into the depth, the message, the meaning of these more-than-familiar tales.

One of the most amazing things about the liturgists I know is their inclusiveness. Sure they have the appropriate university degrees, but they work generously to form liturgy groups and set about teaching all the “liturgy-planning novices” what they’ve learned and experienced. And not only teach them, but encourage them to bring out their own creativity.

Whether it’s eye-catching ways to arrange the environment, interrelating readings and song, or using dance, poetry or any of a myriad of art expressions, there seems to be no end to the ideas these talented liturgists have.

I hope you have known great liturgists–and good musicians, too--wherever you celebrate liturgy. They are an especially talented and important blessing to the Church.

More from the March Art Show: Here's a Great Blue Heron by oblate Jo Clarke and our flagship Niagara by Ann Muczynski, OSB.