Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Red Zone

To the Notre Dame reader, it might appear that I am writing about what happened yesterday on Our Lady's campus – the Blue/Gold game (in which Brian Kelly gets to play Project Runway and preview The Shirt, and fret about his squad's performances in the terrain he calls the "red zone.")

But those who know me well know that I am not commenting upon "the other liturgy."  Especially at the outset of Holy Week, which is the liturgy at this place.  I write of another red zone.

This morning, at the helm and standing in the loft, I must admit to a certain amount of overcome-ness as we made our way through the Solemnity of Palm/Passion Sunday.  Every aspect of it seemed to cut through me like butter.  I was just overcome, over and over again.

It happened as I was entering the Basilica at the tail end of procession, when I heard "Sing Hosanna!" being proclaimed full tilt as the assembly marches in with their palms.

It happened again as the choir broke into the proclamation of the Gospel with their annual angry mob interpretations ("Barrabas!"  "Crucify him!")  While I can never see it myself, my choristers told me than more than a great handful of people seemed visibly disturbed by these bursts of riotous, shameful witness.  As they should have.  An angry mob screaming for capital punishment should never make us feel at peace.

It is a week of full-on, convoluted fury:  Triumphant hosannas followed by the dejection of the Twenty-Second Psalm;  hundreds of students carrying a splinter-laden, enormous cross around campus (that comes on Tuesday) followed by the solace of an Ubi Caritas on Holy Thursday.  The achingly empty, entrance drumbeat of Good Friday, only to blossom a few days later in the tympani parts of "Out of Darkness," that fabulous anthem that has become an Easter tradition with us.

And then there is this song called Cross Cry.  It was sung today by the choir as the anthem for Palm Sunday Mass.  The song keeps coming back to this disturbingly human thought, put on the lips of the suffering Jesus on the Cross:  "Take my mother home."  Could there be no more significant act of compassion by the Son of God that to say such a thing?  Get my Mother out of here.  Do not let her see this.  At the end of the thing, I could barely look at the choir – they had poured such heartbreaking emotion into it.  All I could do was fight back tears, overcome, yet again.

And yet, soon, coming out of this cross cry, there will be another song lifting through the air – the song of the Easter Sequence, in which the Marys come running back from an empty tomb, with impossible news.

How blessed are we, that we have such song to accompany us through all these convulsions of faith.  Watching the seniors in the choir right now, it is downright heartening to watch them passing on their enthusiasms to the freshmen: "You don't know it yet, but your world is about to change.  You haven't experienced Holy Week at Notre Dame."  The upperclassmen speak in hushed wonder, and they are wise to do so.  Today, the freshmen made their first step upon that journey –

– the journey into the Red Zone on Our Lady's campus.