Posts Tagged ‘Holy week’

db_26-Cross_of_the_Holy_Week2Two of our grandchildren came with us to the Passion Day Mass yesterday. We’d been talking over the weekend about peer pressure, fair weather friends, and the dangers of posting anything in a digital format that you wouldn’t want to have to show your grandmother.

I found myself using the long double-Gospel of the Mass as an object lesson. See? One weekend you’re king for the day, and everyone cheers. The crowd are out in the streets laying down palms for your donkey to walk on. Five days later, the same people are in the same streets baying for your blood. Who, then, are your friends?

The New York Times had an article recently about the power of family stories to build resilience. The article talks about the research of a couple of Americans, who were interested in the observation that children who knew more about their families coped better in a crisis:

They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.

“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Duke talks about three different themes in family narrative – the ascending theme (we came from nothing and built an empire), the descending theme (we used to have everything, and we lost it all), and the oscillating theme.

‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Fascinating stuff. As those who’ve followed this blog for a while know, I’ve suggested (slightly tongue in cheek, but my recent readings around AI (artificial intelligence) just reinforce the opinion) that we should be called Homo Narrans – that our identifying characteristic as an animal is our ability to make sense of our environment by making a story out of it, and to then pass that story on to others. My master’s research methodology was based on the power of narrative to build cohesiveness into groups. Surely much of the strength of Christianity to endure and survive lies in the power of the Christian narrative. Passion Sunday’s epic readings take us from triumph through hope to agony and despair. We can’t not know that the resurrection follows. For us, even the descending narratives of the daily readings of this Holy Week – taking us step by step closer to the betrayal, the denial, and the cross – are coloured by the ultimate in plot switches of Easter morning.

Our Christian narrative is an oscillating narrative. I find it hard to believe that a descending narrative – one in which the leader died, betrayed by a close friend and deserted by all but one of his other friends – would have had any survival value for the nascent group. Did they pull themselves together enough to come up with a lie that would keep the crowds coming? Improbable, I would have thought. And the improbable is vastly less likely than the impossible. In this case, the impossible (the resurrection) simply means something happened that we don’t understand. The improbable means that people behaved in a way that is outside of human nature.

We belong to something bigger than ourselves, and – no matter what happens – we’ll survive; we’ll stick together as a family.

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Bible Gateway has a blog post on a possible harmonisation of the Easter accounts in the Bible.

H/t to Aggie Catholics. Click on the graphic to enlarge to full size, then click again on any part to zoom in.

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On Egregious Twaddle, Joanne McPortland talks about her experience of Palm Sunday, and invites us to join her in a meditation. After sharing her feelings about the Palm Sunday reading, where the congregation takes the part of the crowd, she says:

…I had the privilege of being part of Palm Sunday in another, more joyful way today. After Mass, I zipped over to Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church, and in a parking-lot quick change worthy of Superman’s phone booth, transformed myself with skirts and scarves into Tamar the Tea Seller, part of the Jerusalem Marketplace reenactment that my friend Wendy Symonds runs every year as an intergenerational Christian formation event. (I was standing in for the usual tea seller.) Adults portray various merchants and craftspeople of Jerusalem, while parishioners, especially the children, rove from booth to booth. We remain in character and ask all we meet if they have news of Jesus. I had some amazing conversations–children who argued whether he was riding on a donkey or a colt, one young man who professed to be the boy whose loaves and fish Jesus had multiplied, and a couple of men who tried to get me to agree that Jesus should overthrow the Romans. (I told them I never mixed politics and commerce.) “I haven’t seen him yet,” one young girl confessed, “but I’m going to keep looking. And if I find him, I’ll bring him back to you.”

This day begins a week in which the world finds Jesus and brings him back to us, over and over. We are joyful palm wavers and gossipy tea sellers, Passover pilgrims, owners of colts and renters of party rooms, and as the week goes by we will be more and more those jeerers and spitters, deniers and runaways. And the silence of Golgotha will deafen us.

So on this Palm Sunday night I step back a little from the all-too-human pageant ahead, and reflect on a handful of silent inanimate objects that leapt out at me from Mark’s Passion account this morning. Three jars, three cups, three lengths of cloth, a mini-retreat to take myself through this holiest, most harrowing of weeks.

Go read the rest on her site.

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I picked this up from Rappler’s Holy Week online, which also includes meditations for Holy Week and a Stations of the Cross that takes us to 14 Philippines churches. (Rappler is a Philippines news site. JMM is the Jesuit Music Ministry.)

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Food for thought during Holy Week from Darwin Catholic, who writes about Christianity and the miraculous. I thought it might do as an appetizer for my promised post on miracles. 🙂

Here’s Darwin’s conclusion:

While not advocating biblical literalism by any stretch (I would imagine that my chosen cognomen illustrates my divergence from that approach on at least one topic) it seems clear that the gospels often explicitly claim to describe miraculous events performed by Christ, and if Christ is who we believe Him to be, it is hard for me to understand how the simple objection of “we know that doesn’t normally happen” is enough evidence for re-forming the narrative to one’s own taste. Indeed, if one accepts the central tenets of Christianity, to revise the gospel accounts of Christ’s actions without some additional source of evidence seems less rational rather than more so.

The whole thing is worth reading.

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Tomorrow, with the long Passion Sunday Gospel reading, we take our first steps into Holy Week. I’m unlikely to get much time to post, so here are some thoughts and links for the first few days. I’ll try to finish the week in a second post after I’ve planted the broad beans.

Tomorrow, we start the service with the story with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowd are cheering for Him; throwing palm fronds down under the feet of his donkey as a carpet to walk on. Yet a few days later another crowd – with perhaps some of the same people – will be demanding his death. Then, in the Liturgy of the Word, we’ll hear the longest Gospel reading of the year – the Passion of the Christ, from the last supper to His death on the cross.

Here is a beautifully filmed trailer for Britain’s Bach Choir’s singing St Matthews Passion.

I’m going to try to get to Mass every day during Holy Week – and in Easter week too. Monday, that means Mass in the Presbytery with a few of the faithfuls. The Gospel is from John – the passage in which Jesus had dinner with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and Mary poured costly oil all over Jesus’ feet. Judas was horrified at the expense.

I found a video of the songwriter Sydney Carter singing his song about that Gospel reading:

I love the last two verses:

“The poor of the world are my body” he said,
“To the end of the world they shall be.
The bread and the blankets you give to the poor
You’ll find you have given to me,” he said,
You’ll find you have given to me.”

“My body will hang on the cross of the world
Tomorrow,” he said, “and today,
And Martha and Mary will find me again
And wash all my sorrow away,” he said,
“And wash all my sorrow away.”

Then we come to Tuesday. In our Parish, we have Reconciliation that evening.

Here is Archbishop Dolan’s blog reminding us of the need for this beautiful sacrament.

The Chrism Mass for the Archdiocese is on Wednesday evening at the Basilica. At the Chrism Mass the priests of the Archdiocese renew the commitments they made at their ordination. The Mass takes its name from the most eminent of the three holy oils which the bishop commissions for his local churches’ use over the following year.

While the Oil of the Sick, used for those who seek the anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are simply “blessed,” the Sacred Chrism is “consecrated,” and all the priests present participate in the latter moment by extending their hands toward the vessel containing it as the bishop says the prayer of consecration.

Chrism oilsThe Chrism is used at the ordination of priests and bishops, baptisms, confirmations, the consecration of altars and the blessing of churches, where the walls are smeared with it in the shape of the sign of the cross.

As part of the consecration of the Chrism, balsam is poured into the oil, which gives it a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity” to which those people and things who are marked with it, and by extension all of us, are called to strive for.

Representatives from each parish come forward to receive the oils that will be used in their parish during the year, reminding us that we are part of a larger whole. It is a very beautiful and moving liturgy.

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