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Friday, November 8, 2013

I know that my redeemer lives (C32O - music)

This weekend I will be remembering my dad, who went to God on November 12, 1993, so I have my own private November moment every year. It was six weeks before I said "goodbye" to St. Jerome's, too, and headed to the midwest and St. Anne in Barrington, and all the changes that brought about. Lots to ponder.

OK, so on to the music for this weekend. 

Entrance: I the Lord (Kendzia)
Psalm 17 – When Your Glory Appears (Cooney, OCP)
Preparation Rite: New Jerusalem (Cooney, GIA)
Communion:  I Am the Bread of Life (Toolan)
Sending forth: I Know that My Redeemer Lives (Haas)

My last post was about the texts for this Sunday, which are among the one most quoted in discussions about bodily resurrection, one of the tenets of the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. Whatever “bodily resurrection” may mean, and don’t let anyone tell you that they know, it seems to have arisen around the time of the Maccabees and the Hasmonean revolt against the Seleucid empire being ruled by Antiochus Epiphanes IV. It was as a result of this tyrant’s extreme cruelty that there arose the apocalypse of the Book of Daniel; it is the origin of the figure of “a Human Being,” or as most translations traditionally put it, “The Son of Man,” a hero who would arrive to deliver the suffering from the hands of the powerful in the name of God. At this time, also, the later books of wisdom literature were being compiled, like Sirach and Wisdom. In today’s readings, we hear a compressed version of the story of a mother and her seven sons who were arrested for refusing to eat the meat that was sacrificed to idols placed in the temple. Epiphanes makes the mother watch as each of her sons is tortured to death in turn, but they throw his cruelty back in his face, trusting that God will raise their bodies to mortal life again.

John Dominic Crossan does some work on all this in his lovely little book with Marcus Borg called, The Last Week, What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem. He goes into some detail about bodily resurrection, of course, as he deals with the details of Jesus’s resurrection and also of “what happened” to Jesus, in Mark’s mind, for instance, on Saturday, when he says almost nothing. Crossan does a long piece on the “harrowing of hell,” referring to an icon in a monastery in Istanbul (above) that captures for him the essence of the church’s faith in this area. Faith in resurrection from the dead is at the heart of what I chose in music for this weekend, along with the sense that we can’t impose our categories what that means, or on anything, really, in God’s empire. This is why Jesus won’t play nice with the Sadduccees, who think that in the clever, entitled way of the rich and religious they have God figured out, and the backwater Pharisee Jesus doesn’t. By telling them, in effect, that their question is stupid, he’s saying that God’s empire is not subject to human quantifying. So, resurrection, whatever it means, is better than and completely different from whatever we imagine. I’m not sure that really says anything at all, but not telling an untruth is at least better than hyping a lie.

We're starting off with a song that has always seemed to be well sung at St. Anne, which was in the first edition of Gather Comprehensive that we used until 2011, and which inexplicably disappeared in the interim with the second edition, like many other useful songs. Tom Kendzia's "I the Lord" first appeared in the late editions of Glory and Praise, from a collection of his entitled No Greater Love. What a solid song of solidarity and resurrection faith it is! Simple, straightforward text and form, short verses with a memorable refrain. It also has a trumpet part guaranteed to give your brass section an aneurysm, so I'd have them play every second or third note, or alternate notes or something, to avoid an incident. We lose more brass players that way. Imagine the baroque trumpet solo on "Penny Lane" going on for thirty two bars of sixteenth note triplets, and you have the basic idea. Blow, Gabriel, Blow! I love it.

Psalm 17, “When Your Glory Appears,” is one of a handful of psalms for Year C that I was asked to write for Assemblybook in either 1986 or 1989, who can remember? It was before we started not using the Jewish name of God, rendered YHWH in the Hebrew bible, in my psalms. This was not an issue thirty years ago, as the Jerusalem Bible was approved for use at worship, and that translation used "Yahweh" in context as the name of God. Tom Conry always advised me against it, but I didn't listen, and probably  should have.  I might have told you before that I remember Tom telling me that using “Yahweh” in a song was like being the only one at a party that didn’t get God’s joke. Moses asks God, “Whom shall I say sent me (to you, Pharaoh of Egypt, in order that I don’t get my ass kicked)?” and God says, “Tell him, YHWH sent you.” Unpronounceable, unknowable, ineffable, name-that-is-no-name. In other words, “Just go. Leave the rest to me, you’re out of your league.” We recorded this version of Psalm 17 on Cries of the Spirit, Volume 2. It’s through-composed, and I think it carries the spirit of the text really nicely. Apparently, no one else noticed! (We've edited the text. No "Yahweh" any more.)

“New Jerusalem” is a song we’ve been using for about ten years now. It’s a setting of Revelation 21-22 that goes to the tune of the American folk song “Shenandoah,” or “Shanadore.” I set up the lyric like the song might have been sung as a work song, in call and response form. We were driving to Wisconsin for a concert and talking about how nice it would be to sing the tune Shenandoah in church, and I realized that “O Shenandoah” and “Jerusalem” have them same number of syllables with matching accents. This is all it took to get me thinking about it. I use this song on the last Sundays of the year, the 1st Sunday of Advent, and often on the Sundays of Easter when the end of Revelation is part of the liturgy of the word.

The communion song is "I Am the Bread of Life." If you don't know the story of Sister of Mercy Suzanne Toolan, who wrote the song, you should check out the NCR article I linked below. This song is so popular that even my little arrangement of it holds pretty steady in the top 5 of my iTunes downloads from Apple. The article indicates that Sr. Suzanne is writing or has written a memoir, and tells the story that she almost threw “I Am the Bread of Life” away when it was saved by a young girl who overheard her singing it. Shades of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, with “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word.” The story can still be found online here.

We are ending with David Haas's gospel-flavored anthem, "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," based on the beloved text from Job that is a frequent choice for funeral masses that don't opt for the (misunderstood and bowdlerized) Ecclesiastes 3 pericope or the passage from Wisdom 3 ("The souls of the just are in the hands of God...") My feeling about this song is, if you can't feel the hope that rises in the community when you sing this together, then you may, in fact, be need of resurrection. Now, not later!