The Alleluia for the third week of Paschaltide takes its’ verse from Luke 24: 35.
Cognoverunt discipuli Dominum Jesum in fractione panis. The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
A Latin word study gives numerous enlightening meanings: to know….to become thoroughly acquainted with, to learn by inquiring, to examine, to perceive. One meaning implied that it required individual exertion to strive to know. Can we imagine the enlightening of spirit, paired with the reality of the recent Last Supper, and the breaking of the bread of the body on the cross that filled the disciples when the Lord Jesus broke the bread in their presence?
Transition is my word of the week. It means changing from one state or condition to another; a passage or metamorphosis. I see transition at my doorstep in the flowers of early spring: crocuses, daffodils and tete-a-tetes form a gentle army to challenge winter’s lock down. For me, transition is one of life’s most difficult journeys. It can result from unmitigated failure, unmitigated success, or simply the passage of time. One is left “in the middle zone,” waiting for reformation, definition, and transformation. (If a tadpole can become a frog and a caterpillar a butterfly, isn’t just about anything possible?) If you find yourself in transition, be grateful, remain hopeful, for Jesus walks with us in the shadow-times as well as the light.
One of my favorite prayers at Eucharist is the Proper Preface leading into the Sanctus of the Mass. These prayers seem so resolute, so secure, and so unwavering in faith. For the second Sunday of Easter, one version prays: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, at all times to acclaim you, O Lord, but in this time (Easter) above all to laud you yet more gloriously.” The absoluteness, the beauty imagined, and the clarity from these words temporarily pushes away nagging thoughts of self, of doubt and of fear. It’s a hopeful moment when the best promises are again declared aloud that they will be so. For “Through him, the children of light rise to eternal life and the halls of the heavenly Kingdom are thrown open to the faithful…”
The second Sunday of Easter is full of spiritual meaning and has been given several different names over the centuries. It is known as “Low Sunday”, because it finishes the Octave of Easter. It is also known as “Quasi modo Sunday.” This immediately brings to mind Victor Hugo’s protagonist in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but the name is actually taken from the first words of the Introit for that day! 1 Peter 2:2, reads: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word.”
This is a word to those newly baptized on Easter Eve. The introit is a simple chant in Mode 6, punctuated with Alleluias. “St. Thomas Sunday” is also a name given to the day, perhaps because the Communion for that day is Mitte manum, Jesus’ words to Thomas: “Place your hand in my side and be not faithless but believing.”
There is such a connection between the chant and the liturgy! These well-known melodies actually helped to identify the day.
I tend to sift, categorize, and make reasonable things I don’t understand. But, I must confess, the infinite holiness of Easter and its many mysteries are beyond my grasp. Jesus’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection – those four words alone – represent a highly complex series of events that forged a new symmetry between God and humankind. The sinister, the dark, and the reprehensible now stand in shadow, and we follow in His footsteps of light.
“Back to Heaven” I’ll go back to heaven again. Hand in hand with the dew That melts at a touch of the dawning day, I’ll go back to heaven again. With the dusk, together, just we two, at a sign from a cloud after playing on the slopes I’ll go back to heaven again. At the end of my outing to this beautiful world I’ll go back and say: It was beautiful… By Ch’ôn Sang Pyong
I wonder what I will say when I arrive at heaven’s door — will it be words of thanks? Ch’ôn was a Korean poet who suffered greatly in his life from brutal torture as a prisoner, and from alcoholism. But Ch’ôn was said to be a very happy man despite all of his hardships. There’s a reassuring simplicity to his words and his poetry reflects a hope that grew out of him through his struggles.
This Easter season, through the power and miracle of the resurrection, God has given us a perpetual chance to live, repent, and keep living, with-in and as His creation. As the weather warms, and the earth starts to grow again, we should take time to notice and appreciate what he has given us—for all creation is beautiful!
We have just experienced the most amazing of weeks in the liturgical year — Holy Week leading to Easter.
The chants composed for this week audibly take us through each of the various parts of the week. Christ’s entry into Jerusalem was heralded by one of the most famous of all chants, Hosanna, Filio David (Hail, Son of David!). Maundy Thursday, on which Christ gives “a new commandment,” was characterized by the chanting of Ubi Caritas (Where true love is, God himself is there.) > On Good Friday we had the ancient Gospel Passion chanted for the Veneration of the Cross. Holy Saturday opened with the well-known response Lumen Christi (Christ, Light of the World), followed by the Exultet in which the history of our salvation was chanted. Ultimately, we heard chanted the most famous Gregorian Hymn — Victimae Paschali Laudes (Christ, the Paschal Victim) to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection!
This is the richest time in the entire church year for which Gregorian chant does her most beautiful work of illuminating Christ’s life.
I wonder. I wonder what Jesus thought as he walked the way of the cross. Did he say to himself, “One step at a time, one foot before the other?” Did he see beyond the cross, the glory to come? Or was it sinners in need of a savior and love for the undeserving that compelled him? He unleashed from the confines of the cross immeasurable treasures: mercy, forgiveness, and triumph of life over death. Jesus reached out from suffering to suffering for the sake of love.
…should we forget our Savior’s praise, the stones them-selves would sing!
As we finished the final stanza of James Montgomery’s hymn on Sunday, I turned to the person next to me to point out the humor and multiplicity of meanings to this last line. I was chuckling at the literal picture of a singing stone, and two other aspects as well: firstly, how it puts us in our place; and secondly, how it shows the bottomless depth’s of God’s love for us. Let me explain.
How quickly I forget that God is God. God loves us — but he doesn’t need us. I’m reminded of a conversation I had earlier this week were I was discussing how disappointed I feel with myself when I so often turn bitter and angry in certain situations. I fall again and again into the same trap of accusation and self-pity. It feels pathetic, and I assume God surely feels the same way about me. Or does he? A wise friend suggested to me that since God continually seems to be calling each of us to move on with him, maybe He doesn’t care about my failings the same way I do.
Which brings me back to the stones. Why does God even bother to care for us? After all, he has the stones, or the ability to just create someone else who would be better at praising him! But God hasn’t given up on me, even though I give up on myself all the time – and I don’t know why, I just know he hasn’t. God calls us to life. The remembrances of Holy Week, especially, remind us of how much God wants each of us to live our lives to their fullest potential.
Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we entered into Holy Week, in which our greatest remembrance is the Passion of Christ. One of the most ancient of all chants — the chanted Passion according to St. John — reflects this remembrance. This gospel passion has been chanted for centuries on Good Friday, first being noted in the scriptures with nothing more than symbols indicating those parts chanted by Christ, those by other characters (such as the “turba” or crowd, or Pilate) and finally, a narrator.
Here is a perfect example of the ancient tradition of chanting scripture to “lift it up.” God’s word was meant to be sung in order to help reflect the depth of its meaning.
There is no other chant that carries more weight — more spiritual “gravitas” — than the chanted Passion narrative. It is perhaps one of the simplest chant recitations, yet it carries some of the greatest truths. I think that that is the real lesson inside of this particular chant: its sheer simplicity is the very thing that seems to let it bring forth the incredible beauty of the Good Friday Passion.