The rest of the Triduum

In the Catholic liturgical year, there is no starker contrast than the juxtaposition of the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday night.

Good Friday is the only day all year when Mass is not celebrated. The commemoration service is traditionally held mid-afternoon and begins with the clergy processing in and lying prostrate before the altar. It continues with readings, including the reading of the passion narrative from the gospel of John and then moves on to the veneration of the cross, in which all present process to a plain wooden cross and venerate it in some way, according to local tradition. At Holy Family, we bowed before the cross; other parishes genuflect or touch or kiss the cross. Then, after praying the Lord’s Prayer, communion is distributed from hosts that were consecrated on Holy Thursday night. The church is unadorned – no flowers, only the simplest altar cloth, which is removed after the service concludes, and the empty tabernacle with its door left open.

When we arrive at Holy Family for Easter Vigil, although the church is only dimly lighted, it is bursting with color – long bolts of cloth, each a different hue, radiate from a central point high in the sanctuary out over the congregation – flowers banked in several locations, not only the traditional white Easter lilies but also red and blue hydrangeas, orange lilies, pink azaleas, and light green mums – the altar draped in white, which is the color of Easter. The tabernacle, still empty with its door open, is the only visual reminder of the first two days of the Triduum.

We begin with the service of light, where a new fire is kindled and used to light a new Easter candle, whose light is spread to the candles that the congregation holds. After the Easter Proclamation is sung, we extinguish our candles and proceed with an extended liturgy of the word, including the singing of the Gloria and Alleluia, which are not used in Lent. Speaking to my daughter’s and my heart, the homilist chose to concentrate on Mary Magdelene’s place as the first witness of the resurrection, in a time and culture when women were not allowed to testify in court, chosen by God to go and tell, which is the apostolic mission.  In place of the creed, after new holy water is blessed, we renew our baptismal promises and are blessed with the new water. We continue on with the liturgy of the Eucharist and, after communion, the tabernacle is finally filled and the door closed.

One of the most powerful elements in these liturgies is the music, which is not only enhanced by the participation of our choir, cantors, and instrumentalists but also by the participation of the people. Because none of the liturgies of the Triduum are obligatory, the people who choose to participate are those who are steadfast in their commitment to celebrating as a community. On Good Friday, I was especially moved by people joining in with the choir singing the spiritual “Were You There?” and the Taize prayer “Jesus, Remember Me” during the long procession for veneration of the cross.  The Easter Vigil brings some music that is only used at that Mass. I was especially moved by the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) and a sung form of the Exodus reading about the horses and chariots of Egypt being cast into the sea to protect the fleeing Israelites, by Rory Cooney. The elements of light and water re-appear in the much of the music, with more songs about the Resurrection appearing after the Easter gospel is read. The music was extra festive because a trumpeter joined the choir, organ, and congregation for many of the songs.

I wish a blessed Easter to all Christians, continued blessings of Passover to all Jewish people, and peace, love, and light to all people!

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60th Anniversary

Today is my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. The whole family feels blessed that they have achieved such a rare milestone. Most couples are not blessed with such longevity combined with mutual love and regard for one another. It’s not that there haven’t been challenges over the years, including health issues, especially with my father, who has survived three separate types of cancer and a double bypass, while dodging a strong family history of Alzheimer’s. But they always persevere and get back to their routine with each other, taking walks, going to exercise class, running errands, lots of conversation and a healthy dose of laughter.

They are not, however, big party people, so their anniversary celebration has been a family affair. Because they retired near us twenty-five years ago, we see them often, but my sisters live further afield, so the celebration has had several parts. It started last month with a visit and special dinner with my older sister and her husband, who travelled up from Maryland. The main part of the celebration began yesterday with the arrival of my younger sister and her family from NYC and featured a lot of gaiety as they presented my parents with a part pre-recorded, part live presentation of sixty things for their sixtieth anniversary, culminating in the cutting of celebratory wedding cupcakes with Italian soda toast in (plastic) champagne flutes. For the big day today, we had a lunch out at one our favorite local places and tonight my parents will have a table for two at their favorite local Italian restaurant.

Their marriage and their love for one another is an inspiration. I wrote this poem for the occasion and they gave me their permission to share it on my blog.

For Mom and Dad – On Their 60th Wedding Anniversary

April 19, 1954
Easter Monday
Patriots’ Day and
Your wedding
Elinor married Leo
“One of those Americans”
(Translation: Irish-American,
not Italian-American)
But that didn’t matter
There was plenty of love to share

By December of ’62
Three daughters and
Friends and neighbors and
As years went by
Daughters’ friends
(including a dance company
or two)
Still plenty of love to share

The family grew
Adding heritage from
Asia
Africa
more parts of Europe
Canada
Constructing our version
of the United Nations
With plenty of love to share

In retirement
in JC
at Castle Gardens
at GSV
Still encompassing
Others in your circle of love
Sixty years
With plenty of love to share

 

 

Remembrance

We just returned from Holy Thursday Mass. Fittingly, the focus of the homily was remembrance. The 4,000+ years of remembrance of the Passover, the almost 2,000 years remembrance of the celebration of the Eucharist, and the remembrance of our call to serve one another, symbolized by the washing of the feet. The twelve whose feet were washed were a cross-section of the community, diverse in race, ethnicity, and gender, with an age range of at least six decades.

There were other personal remembrances for me, especially of my former parish, which was the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. This made the Holy Thursday liturgy especially significant for us and it was always my favorite liturgy of the year. I was remembering our music ministry at Blessed Sacrament, which was brought to mind by the fact that some of the musicians this evening, including my daughter, were music ministers at Blessed Sacrament back in the day.

I was remembering the sculpture of Jesus, seated as though at a table, holding the bread and the cup, which dominated the wall behind the altar. It was such a welcoming presence; during times in my life when I felt unwelcomed by some in the Church, it was a comfort to meditate on it.

At communion, I was remembering that on Holy Thursday, instead of the usual hosts, we consecrated tiny individual unleavened breads that had been baked by one of our long-time parishioners.

The Holy Thursday liturgy ends with the Blessed Sacrament being placed on an altar of reposition, instead of in the main tabernacle of the church. Tonight, the church had placed a glass tabernacle in a simply but beautifully decorated space along the side wall of the church. I was holding in remembrance my favorite tabernacle, which was the one we used at Blessed Sacrament after our major renovation. A liturgical artist made a natural linen-colored square-based tent for us, decorated with piping that matched the red, blue, and green color accents painted in the tower of the church. On Holy Thursday, we carried the tabernacle in procession before the Blessed Sacrament and set it on the altar of repose. The Blessed Sacrament was placed inside, incensed, and then the tent flap was closed. I loved the symbolism, because the word tabernacle comes from the word tent and reminds us of the tent in which the Ark of the Covenant was housed before the Temple was built in Jerusalem. Like the Passover remembrance, the tent-tabernacle reminds me of the profoundly Jewish roots of Christians and the love and respect to which we are all called.

Blogging

In my About page and my first post, I admitted that I didn’t really know much about blogging, except that blogs were supposed to have themes and Top of JC’s Mind decidedly didn’t have one. OK – I didn’t literally say that, but reading between the lines….

Since then, I’ve learned that there are other “eclectic” bloggers out there and I follow a few of them. I also realize that a favorite topic for bloggers to write about is blogging – go figure – so I thought, now that I’m a few months into this endeavor, I’d write a blogging post.

I’ve read several people’s thoughts on what they want to accomplish with their blog, which usually involve how many people they can reach and have comment on their posts. My approach so far has been somewhat different, in that I write about what I want when I want, without giving a whole lot of thought to who exactly is reading it. I didn’t want to really get into publicizing my blog until I was more sure of my ability to write it. It also didn’t even really occur to me to look at stats until I started reading about it on HarsH ReaLiTy, a wordpress blog where Opinionated Man writes about many things, including (power)blogging and the way he goes about finding new followers, at which he excels, so much so that he has recently started doing it for hire, which you can find out about here, if you are interested.

I, of course, do not have many followers, and some that I do have only followed me because they are in the business of helping people drive traffic to their blogs and get noticed by search engines and such. There is a name/acronym for that, but it escapes me….

I am only making baby steps in publicizing my blog, such as posting to my twitter and doing public facebook posts. WordPress does have some related publicity tools, which I may try soon. I initially got weirded out because you need to do things like give this other entity the ability to follow new people on your twitter and you have to create a separate public FB page for your blog and I just wasn’t at the point of dealing with it. I do think that I am almost there.

Some of my FB friends gave me some suggestions about my blog, so I changed formats and discovered widgets! I am also going to learn soon about putting in some pictures. As you can tell, I’m not THE most tech savvy blogger ever. I may even be in the running for the least tech savvy!

I realize that one thing most successful bloggers do is post frequently, as in multiple times a day, but that is not in the cards for me, at least for the foreseeable future. I will continue taking baby steps and see where they lead.

I want to thank people who read my posts and/or follow Top of JC’s Mind. I appreciate anyone who visits and hope that my posts are meaningful to you in some way. I will try to keep improving and welcome any feedback that anyone would like to give.

Peace,
JC

 

 

Father John Dear: “The Nonviolent Life”

Earlier this week, I was privileged to hear Father John Dear speak at a local church. He is on a national book tour, speaking about the concepts in his most recent book, “The Nonviolent Life.” Although it was wonderful to hear him speak about his travels, including his recent trip to South Africa to visit important social justice sites there and to meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it was most moving to hear him speak about the nonviolence of Jesus, as we began Holy Week, and how we can live that nonviolence in our own lives.

He emphasized that nonviolence has three components that we need to carry out simultaneously. The first is nonviolence toward oneself. It seems that that would be easy, but so many of us struggle to love and accept ourselves, judging our own worth in harsh ways that we would not inflict on another person. This being the first principle in the nonviolent life was a powerful reminder that peace within ourselves – and peace in our spiritual practice and relationship with God, if that is our tradition – is essential to bringing that peace to others.

The second component is to be nonviolent to all people and to all of creation. For those of us who are Christian, we are taught these Bible quotes from childhood. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It is much more difficult to live them, though, especially when our world is embroiled in multiple armed conflicts and many are intent on retribution against an enemy. It takes a lot of strength to respond nonviolently to violence, but we have the example of Jesus to follow, as well as more modern examples, such as Ghandi, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day.

The third component is to be part of the global grassroots nonviolence movement for the rest of one’s life. That does sound daunting, except that it doesn’t mean that one has to travel to other countries or take on every justice and peace issue. It can mean supporting local efforts to combat hunger or advocating for legislation to stop capital punishment or war or joining the fight for fair wages or equal access to education. Personally, I view my work fighting against unconventional fossil fuels and global warming as social justice work, which, in John Dear’s language, is also the work of non-violence. Likewise, this would encompass the advocacy work for or against legislation on the national level that I participate in as a member of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby.

It can be discouraging when one is working on such a big issue as ending violence. It was hopeful to hear Father Dear speak, because there are so many instances that he spoke about where nonviolent methods lead to important change. If it happened in those times and places, it can happen again here and now, especially with so many of us joining together at the grassroots level to work toward nonviolence, justice, and peace.

 

Palm Sunday

This morning at Palm Sunday Mass, my daughter was singing in the adult choir which was serving along with the children’s choir in the music ministry, while I was sitting in the congregation, positioned so that I could look up and see her and the choirs.

Because the parish had purchased the music library from the now-merged parish that my daughters and I had attended when they were growing up, many of the pieces were familiar. In our old parish, my daughters had come up through the choirs from third grade on and had also rung handbells. I spent many hours serving on liturgy committee and assisting in the music ministry. I had accompanied my daughters’ choirs and, after orthopedic problems with my elbow interfered with my ability to play, sometimes conducted while the music director accompanied.

One of the pieces that was part of today’s prelude was a wonderful arrangement of “Jacob’s Ladder” which had become part of our original parish’s Palm Sunday tradition. I had played it for a number of years and then moved on to conducting it, so it was poignant to hear my now-adult daughter joining with the children’s choir to sing the arrangement she had first learned when she was eight. The piano accompaniment is quite challenging and I had to remind myself that I used to be able to play it.

I don’t often allow myself to miss what I used to be able to do as a musician. I also can usually keep at bay the longing for the parish that my daughters and I had called home for so many years, but that fell apart even before the last flood made the worship space itself too costly to repair and maintain.

Today was not a day that I could keep those losses walled off. It may be a difficult Holy Week.

Groundswell Rising LTE

Below is a follow-up letter to the editor of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin based on this blog post.

The link to the letter to the editor itself is:  http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20140406/VIEWPOINTS03/304060005/Letter-Documentary-shows-results-fracking, but I have printed it below to keep people from getting tangled up in the subscription process for the paper.

I am assiduously avoiding looking at the comments, as I know a few locals will tear into anything I write, so I am sparing myself the aggravation.

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With over 70 other local residents, I recently watched “Groundswell Rising,” a new documentary on the effects of the fracking industry on individuals and communities and their response to it. Much of the film focuses on Pennsylvania, showing the noise, light, air and water pollution — and the health problems many have experienced as a result.

The most powerful segments show ordinary folks telling stories of how their lives have been changed by the industry moving into their backyards. These stories, along with a growing body of science, obligate Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stand up to the gas industry and protect New Yorkers.

Even though the people already affected will never be able to regain what they have lost, they have banded together to become the “groundswell rising,” fighting for their own health, their right to clean air and water, and their communities and ours.

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PS  I hate writing with a 150 word limit. 😉