Season after Pentecost, 2023
It occurs to me that perhaps I might offer a window on what it is to be a church musician in Holy Week. And perhaps a few other thoughts too.
This evening at the parish where I serve, we offered "Poetry and Music: Meditations for Holy Week." The Reverend the Rector chose several poems, and I set them to music, mostly at the spur of the moment. This is the third year we have done this.
As I entered this service/poetry reading/concert (what is this thing that we do, exactly?) I had several things in mind. First, something the pianist Jeremy Denk said about the last Beethoven piano sonata, Op. 111 when he performed it here on Saturday evening. He talked about how the second movement is a variation set, but that the theme eventually disappears, and that eventually "the answers overwhelm the question."
That phrase looms large in my consciousness this week. What is this thing that we do, Holy Week? There's darkness, a few candles, there's foot washing, altar stripping, moaning and groaning, more candles, more darkness, washing people in water, and suddenly it's Easter.
There was a question in here somewhere. Maybe it was "what is truth" or something like that. But the question we ask in Holy Week – if we let it – can and should be overwhelmed by the answers.
I was grateful tonight that the Rector broke the "rubric" if we can be said to have such a thing for tonight's little happening, and included the following prose by Thomas Merton's Thoughts in Solitude:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
What wonderful reassurance for improvisation and for this life. "I have no idea where I am going."
But the answers come nonetheless.
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