Saturday, March 31, 2012

When Passion Red is unfurled

This weekend, we'll be doing something that is deep in our ritual sensibilities at the University of Notre Dame – we'll unfurl our blazing red banners, stand in front of Bond Hall for the reading of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, palms lifted high, and then march over to the Basilica, voices wafting through that quad with refrains to "All Glory, Laud and Honor" and "To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King," all introduced by the oldest carillon in the country, high up in the steeple of that great church.

It begins a week of very old things.

As I've looked back over our liturgy programs of the past generation, it's remarkable how very little our repertoire has changed when it comes to Holy Week. Sure, we trade up the anthems every year (this year we're singing Handel's stirring "Surely He Hath Borne Our Grief" for the preparation of the table). But our Opening Hymns are the same... we start with two great standards on the way to the Basilica (see above), and when everyone passes the entryway they're lambasted with "Sing Hosanna!" in true Yiddish style. We still use Chrysogonus' mournful setting of Psalm 22: "My God, My God." And, inevitably, we still find a place for that long and plaintive cello solo that serves as an entree into "Jesus the Lord," by my dear friend Roc O'Connor. And we still end Sunday's liturgy with "O Sacred Head," so carefully registered by my colleague Karen, who, by the third verse, has disappeared entirely, leaving only the fragile four-part assembly on its own.

It is a time for old things. Things repeated, repeated so we can continue to understand them, comprehend them, let them sink in. Repeated because the mysteries these days contain are, in some ways, so unfathomable that it takes a lifetime to try to wrap our small souls around them. It is a time of litanies, of ancient languages, of a single candle chasing away all shadows.

So let the Red be unfurled! Passion is about to commence!

1 comment: