Sunday, April 12, 2009
As per request, here are pictures of the sanctuary taken last night and this morning, dressed for Easter. Last night we began Easter celebrations with the Easter Vigil. That's when two were baptized and confirmed into Christ, one renewed her confirmation into Christ, and two others were confirmed into Christ. It was a night and morning filled with hymns, readings, psalms, incense, oil, water, bread, wine, and CHRIST in all of these things!
The youngest children used cut flowers to adorn the cross. This is the first place I've ever been where this custom has been maintained. My first Good Friday here I participated in the liturgical rite: The pastor holding high the unadorned former Christmas-tree-now-made-cross and intoning, "Behold the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the world;" the congregation then chanting in reply, "O come let us worship Him." That was an excitement in and of itself. Yet upon returning the next evening for the Easter Vigil, a greater one awaited. The bare cross pastor had carried to the four corners of the sanctuary was now shrouded in white bandaging. For all the world that cross imaged Christ in His burial garment to me. It was striking.
To maintain that imagery this year, pastor has decided to leave the altar adorned only with the fair linen throughout the Easter season. The altar is a work of art in and of itself. The superfrontal, which is no less a beautiful piece of art of a different kind, lays over a portion of the altar, as if it were a mask for the beauty underneath (A great lesson there!). But for the Easter season another lesson is being told to us.
Jesus burst forth from the tomb, leaving His burial clothes behind on death's bed where He slept for three days. The simplicity of the fair linen on the granite of the altar recalls this. The altar is the place where Christ is present for us in the bread and wine; Christ literally sits enthroned upon this altar. So to leave a bare slab of rock with only a strip of linen across it is not a far stretch to thinking, "This is where My Lord's Body and Blood lie for me; this is the place where the Church is born form Christ."
By the way, the cover is removed from the Baptismal font prior to each Mass. The font has water for those who wish to dip their fingers and make the sign of the cross.
So, more views--as Easter progresses. We left before the flowered cross was taken to the roadside fence for passersby to see as they drove by. My newest godson needed to get home. He'd already had a long day. I think he'd have gone on for more. He was acolyte today. Had a lot to do, lighting candles, holding books. I asked him if he felt any different today. He said he did. He said he slept better last night than any night he ever did before. Baptism's like that. And he's been waiting a long time for it.
Friday, April 10, 2009
It has been a labor of love and aching backs and sore hands–literally so for there were breaks taken for surgery on David’s back and hands. Yet by Palm Sunday Michelle’s vision had come to fruition, and the chancel area was complete. This is not to say that the renovations of the interior of the church are complete. There are still some bit-and-pieces yet to be attended to, but the major portion is finished. We can enjoy the beauty of what Michelle envisioned and David and his crew of many volunteers crafted.
In case you’ve forgotten how far we’ve come, here is a photo of my consecration that will give an idea of “then”. The rest shown were taken this morning for the “now.” The altar is dressed for Good Friday.
This week, whether it was Holy Tuesday or Holy Wednesday I don’t recall, we had just finished Matins and my class left to use the bathrooms in the church, as is their custom. I asked them to wait for me in the church while I checked the state of the trash receptacles. The are small and need emptying often, especially with frequent services and babies attending. When I went to collect them, they were oddly quiet. I’ve struggled with them to keep their voices respectfully low in the sanctuary all year long. “Don’t you know it’s a throne room?” Do you realize that the King of Kings sits on that altar in the bread and wine?” This is no place for being rowdy.”
On this day they were standing near the communion rail, entranced by every word coming from pastor’s mouth. They were asking questions, “What is that for?;” “What do we have that up there?”; “What does this symbol mean?”; and finally, the great catechetical question of God’s children,“What is this? ” Pastor was answering each one, making the link to Christ. They didn’t want to stop, and not merely because they wanted to miss Math classes. They wanted more of Jesus.
People can argue, as they did with Jesus (Mk 14:4-5), “These are hard times. Money is tough. Why do you spend it on luxury when it should be spent on the poor?” The answer is simple. It was spent on the poor. It was spent on the poor in spirit so that they might have more Jesus.
This is the highest reason we adorn churches. It is not for the sake of puffery, for making ourselves look grand. It is so the great catechetical question is asked, “What is this?” and it can be answered through Christ. Bread of heaven given; bread received.