Tuesday, April 7, 2009

At the Name of Jesus

A hymn/poem for Holy Week. . .

At the Name of Jesus, by Caroline Noel, (1870)

At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess Him King of Glory, now.
‘Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call Him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners, unto whom He came.
Faithfully He bore it, spotless to the last.
Brought it back victorious, when through death He passed.

Bore it up triumphant, with its human light
Through all ranks of creatures to the central height;
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

In your hearts enthrone Him; there let Him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true.
Crown Him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let His will enfold you in its Light and Pow’r.

Jesus, Lord and Savior, shall return again
With His Father’s glory, o’er the earth to reign.
For all wreaths of empire meet upon His brow,
And our hearts confess Him King of Glory, now. . .

-------------------------

For a Catholic, Holy Week (between Palm Sunday and Easter) is just a liturgically-rich environment, just packed full of significance to drive home what Christ has done for us. . .

Starting on Holy Thursday, with the Mass of the Last Supper, in which we commemorate Jesus' institution of the Eucharist (or Holy Communion), and his washing of the disciples' feet - our priests actually take a basin and water and wash the feet of a dozen parishioners, which just makes it all the more 'real' that what Jesus did for the Twelve, he does also for us. One year, I was one of the foot-washees, and I completely understood Peter's impulse of, "uh, please, you can't do this to me. . ."

On Good Friday, at noon, we have the Good Friday service. Good Friday is the only day of the year that Catholic churches don't have Mass - the altar, and the church building generally is stripped bare. The priests enter and leave the church in silence, and the entire liturgy is just somber, as we reflect on Christ's work on our behalf, on the cross. There is a liturgy of veneration of the Cross, and a communion service. Just because I'm the kind of goofball that I am (and may God have mercy on me), I always get a wry chuckle from the General Intercessions in the Good Friday prayers. There is a series of intercessions that follow an apparent 'progression' - first, for the Catholic Church, then for the pope, the bishops and all clergy, for those entering the Church this Easter, then for all Christians, for the Jewish people, for those who don't believe in Christ, for those who don't believe in God, and lastly, for those in public office. I'm pretty sure that the prayers don't have quite the 'significance' that seems apparent to me from the 'progression', but I always get a chuckle from them. . .

On Good Friday evening, we go to a Tenebrae ('shadows') service. Most parishes don't have a Tenebrae service, and ours doesn't, either, but one of the perks of living in the see city of our diocese, is that the Cathedral is right downtown in OurTown, and they have a Tenebrae service there. Tenebrae is a powerful liturgy, symbolizing the apparent 'Triumph of Darkness' as Christ is in the tomb, and His impending ultimate Victory. Through a series of prayers, the candles on the altar (and the lights in the entire church) are progressively extinguished, until a single candle remains lit, in an otherwise pitch-dark church. And then, that single candle is hidden behind the altar, symbolizing Christ hidden in the tomb. The first time I attended a Tenebrae service, and the last candle was hidden, it provoked a sense of utter despair, as I could mentally/spiritually 'place myself' in the situation of the first disciples, who had placed their hopes in Jesus, and to see him brutally killed, and placed in the grave - very much a sense of, what are we gonna do now? And then, the single candle re-emerges from its hiding place, so much as to say, 'Not so fast; wait till you see what comes next'. . . And the service again ends in silence.

And after sunset on Holy Saturday is the Easter Vigil Mass - the richest, most wonderful liturgy on the entire Church calendar. I won't bore you with all the details, but it begins in darkness. The Easter candle is blessed, and the fire from the Easter candle is distributed to everyone in the church, as they light their candles from its flame, until the church is lit by the light of all the candles. The candles are extinguished, and the Exsultet - the ancient Christian Hymn of Victory - is sung, followed by a series of readings (in our parish, we usually do three readings, but there could be as many as seven), which collectively tell the story of Salvation History - typically beginning with God's creation of the world, and including the story of the Exodus, and a passage from one of the prophets. After this, the lights are turned on (in symbolism of passing from the Old Testament to the New, and the Advent of Christ, and His Resurrection) and the Gloria is sung, followed by a reading from one of the New Testament Epistles, and a reading from the Gospel.

The Easter Vigil is also when people are typically received into the Catholic Church, and baptisms and confirmations are also included in the liturgy. This year, our family has been 'instructing' a young man, in preparation of his being received into the Catholic Church. A friend of 4M's decided he wanted to become Catholic, but there wasn't a 'neat' way to handle his instruction - he was too old to just include him in the regular confirmation class (typically 8th/9th graders), but still a bit young to just have him follow the regular 'adult' course of instruction. So, they asked our family if we could just handle his instruction, and for the past several months, we've had him over every Sunday to join our family for brunch, and then we retire to the 'study' for the week's instruction. And this Saturday evening, at the Easter Vigil, it all comes to its culmination, and our young friend will enter into life as a confirmed Catholic Christian. It has been a rich and rewarding time for our family (it always seems that you learn as much, or more, by teaching something, as you do from being taught), as well as for him.

Sunday, we'll host as many members of Molly's family as come, for Easter dinner, and family celebration - Easter baskets for the kids (over the years, Molly has developed a tradition of a 'hunt' for the Easter baskets, using Bible verses as clues, the final one leading them to where the baskets are stored), and a dinner of roast lamb (the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, dontcha know).

All together, it's just a wonderfully rich time in the life of our family, and the Catholic Church more generally. Blessings to all of you, whether Catholic or not, during, and through, the holy days to come. . .

10 comments:

Cocotte said...

My oldest received her first communion during a Maundy Thursday service, which included foot washing done by the pastor to a few volunteers. It is a humbling, uncomfortable thing to watch, let alone participate in!

My husband is speaking at the Good Friday service (with a few other lay people) about why so many reject the Good News.

I have never attended a Tenebrae service, but it does sound powerful. Thanks a peek into your upcoming weekend, Des.

Therese in Heaven said...

A blessed Holy Week to you and the Jones household.

for a different kind of girl said...

What a beautiful time you have before you. Blessings to yours.

lime said...

i have to say, though i did not grow up going to a christian church, when i came to it as a teen and started going with my grandparents i went to a very liturgical protestant church. since college i have gone to non-denominational and baptist churches but i find during advent, lent, and especially holy week i really miss the liturgy and formality. the rest of the year i prefer the less formal expressions of worship but for those three times my spirit craves the more formal and solemn expressions. the tenebrae is incredibly profound and i miss it.

i must say though, the mennonites and bretherens though more informal in regular practices have a solemnity during holy week that i find befitting.

Xavier said...

Thanks for sharing that peek into your observances.

As a church family we once observed Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter in less formal yet still reverential ways. This year we observed an abbreviated Palm Sunday observance and will participate in what may be our last Sunrise service at the cemetery. The usual Good Friday service has been replaced by movie night.

Sadly much of that will soon be gone at this church but its passing will give us a chance to go and see how others worship God at this time.

Desmond Jones said...

Cocotte - Funny, isn't it, how getting your feet washed can make you squirm so?

Blessings to your husband on his talk Friday. . .

And if you ever get the chance to go to a Tenebrae service, I highly recommend it. . .

Therese - And to your family, as well.

And this is kinda a busy time for your choir, isn't it? I'm sure you're gonna sound like the angels. . .

faDKoG - Blessings to you & yours, as well.

Lime - Interesting. Being Catholic, but also part of a charismatic community, we also experience both the 'formal/liturgical' and 'free-form/informal' styles of worship. And honestly, I love them both, and wouldn't want to do without either one. God is the object of our worship, and He lets us meet Him in a rich variety of ways.

I've not had a ton of exposure to Mennonite/Brethren worship. I have a very good friend who grew up Brethren, and converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in his college years (sort of analogous to my own journey from UCC to Catholicism), and he has some utterly fascinating perspectives on Christianity. . .

Xavier - Good Friday service replaced by movie night?

(*shudder*) (*cringe*)

I have no objection to informality, as such, but there's informality, and there's missing the point. And without meaning to be nasty, that seems more like missing the point. . .

In my pre-Catholic days, I went to a few Easter Sunrise services, and they were, without exception, wonderful.

Blessings on you and your family, and may the Risen Lord meet you where you need to be met this year. . .

flutterby said...

Nice choice for the Sunday dinner. Maybe it's just me, but it always seemed a little incongruous to serve ham... just saying.

:)

Have a blessed celebration with your family, Des.

FTN said...

There is a bit of a push towards some litany among many of us "emergent" types (not always sure what emergent really means but I think I've been pegged as such). I'm working some written call and response stuff into some things a group of us do.

Happy Easter to you and the fam!

Xavier said...

Well, I should be fair and at least mention that the movie is "The Passion Of The Christ". Somehow, though, even that does not feel adequate to replace actual participation in the observance. Ya know?

Desmond Jones said...

Flutter - Yeah, given all the connections of Easter with Passover (and this year, Passover falls on Holy Thursday, which is just way cool. . .), it just seems like the 'Easter ham' is sorta a non-sequitur.

But having said that, I think Molly's mom is bringing a ham to dinner. . . (*sigh*)

FTN - Hey, good to see you!

Somebody is gonna have to explain for me, the difference between 'emergent' and 'emerging'; 'cuz I'm told they're not the same thing. . .

There was a whole wave of young evangelicals, back in the 70s (so yeah, these 'young guys' are my age), who entered Orthodoxy. In large part because of the beauty of the liturgy. . .

Heck, just responsively reading/chanting the psalms can be incredibly rich. . .

And Happy Easter to you and your fam, as well. . .

Xavier - Well, gosh, that's different. . . I mean, Mel Gibson's Catholic, y'know? ;)

Watching 'The Passion' is a little more like Good Friday than just 'movie night'. But yeah, I can understand that it would still feel 'less than' a real church service.