Sunday blast from the past

…although “blast” may not be the right word.

It happens that the lectionary readings at church today contained two texts which I have set to music.

The Hebrew Scriptures reading from Proverbs chapter 9 contains part of the text I used in composing an anthem for the dedication of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City, NY and the Gospel reading from John chapter 6 is the basis for my piece “And I Will Raise Them Up,” which was also written for the choir at Blessed Sacrament.

It’s as though all that happened in another lifetime.

Ten years ago, the parish that I knew, loved, and served disintegrated.  A remnant of it existed for a while longer and eventually merged with a nearby parish. Its complex of buildings closed after a second devastating flood within five years. They have been sold to a nearby Christian college, which will eventually re-open the church as their chapel, although, as is common, the altar, stained glass windows, and other religious accouterments were removed before the building was sold.

Today, knowing that the tower windows are gone is especially poignant. I had chosen the texts for my anthem for the dedication of the renovated and expanded church building dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament based on those windows, which depicted three aspects of the Eucharist – nourishment, healing, and presence – using images from Hebrew Scriptures. The Proverbs text we heard today, in which Wisdom prepares and invites everyone to a feast, was the basis of the “nourishment” section and the source of the title, “Wisdom Has Built Herself a House.”

It was sung publicly only once, at the dedication of the church. It’s unlikely that it will ever be sung again. It exists only on mute, hand-written pages and as an echo in my memory.

Corpus Christi

This morning, we observed the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, still often called by its Latin name, Corpus Christi. Because for many years we ministered at a church dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament who also observed it as its feast day, we are especially attached to its observance. I even composed a Corpus Christi anthem for the Blessed Sacrament choir to sing, based on part of the reading from the gospel of John (Jn 6:51-58) that we heard proclaimed today. It has also traditionally been the last Mass at which the adult choir sings before taking a break for the summer, so it was the last opportunity for Trinity to sing with Genesis Choir at our current parish, as I alluded to in this post.

Trinity was able to sing, although not without complications. For the last week and a half, she has been battling what seems to be a systemic allergic reaction. We can’t figure out what is causing it. So far, there have been a visit to the walk-in clinic at our family practice, overlapping doses of three different antihistamines, oatmeal baths, special lotions, blood tests, and a visit to the allergist, but no real relief or answers yet. Despite not getting much sleep last night and not feeling well, Trinity made it to church to sing and say good-bye to her choir friends, many of whom are a generation or two older than she.

I sat near the choir area and kept an eye on Trinity, in case she became so uncomfortable that she needed me to bring her home. By the grace of God, she made it through and is now changed into more comfortable clothes and resting. There will be a follow-up appointment with the allergist later in the week; we are hoping for answers and a plan to bring lasting relief.

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.