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Thursday, May 30, 2013

We proclaim the death of the Lord

I always love to hear the reading from 1 Corinthians 11 at mass, or any time. It’s the earliest description we have of the actions of the Lord at the “last supper,” antedating the gospels by as much as two decades, and not only describing the actions of Jesus, but theologizing for a specific audience about the meaning of those actions.

Paul is writing to the new community at Corinth, one which he has founded, and one which is experiencing some growing pains. You can understand what is happening - Paul has introduced the Way in Corinth having lived there for a while and preached the gospel, then he moves on leaving the community in the charge of deacons and heads of household. The enthusiastic community starts to expand, and receives new members who are hearing the gospel now second hand, or third. Some of the original zeal starts to burn out in some. Syncretistic practices and simply falling back into old ways starts to happen. The idyllic practices of the pristine response community, to the extent they had ever existed, start to fray around the edges. Paul scolds them earlier in the letter for abuses of the body, the community. But then he gets to what is really on his mind, the rupture in the body itself.
First of all, I hear that when you meet as a church there are divisions among you, and to a degree I believe it; there have to be factions among you in order that (also) those who are approved among you may become known. When you meet in one place, then, it is not to eat the Lord's supper, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk. Do you not have houses in which you can eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed? What can I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this matter I do not praise you.

I wonder if all this just sounds quaint to us, that we think, “Jeez, what’s with that? They had just met St. Paul. Couldn’t they act like Christians even when they gathered for the Lord’s supper? What a bunch of losers.” But it strikes me that it’s not so different from what we do all the time. I mean, the meal is long gone from the rite of Eucharist itself, but the sharing of the wealth and food of the assembly with the poor isn’t much more widespread, if at all, than in the early church. There are examples of generosity and crazy possessiveness in both ages.

There’s a question that I like to pose when we do workshops around the country, something I like to ask people to think about while we’re singing songs and looking at the liturgy and the life of the Church: what is the connection between the meal of Jesus and the cross? Why is it that St. Paul can say, as he does in that reading yesterday, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” Why the death of the Lord?

Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere in his recent book on the table ministry of Jesus in the gospel of Luke, called Dining in the Kingdom of God, makes the point that we Catholics tend to make too much of the “institution” of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, and make less of the origins of the Eucharist in the table-ministry of Jesus. (Coincidentally, one of the major stories used by Laverdiere and others in this regard is the gospel account for next Sunday’s celebration, the meal at the house of Simon the Pharisee.) My great mentor in liturgy, John Gallen, used to talk about the table-ministry of Jesus in the gospels in three parts - in his three-year ministry among the people, the Last Supper itself, with its religious overtones of sacrifice, Passover, and freedom, and the post-resurrection food narratives, particularly the meal at Emmaus, the breakfast on the lakeshore in John, and the appearance to the disciples in Luke 24. The meaning of the Jesus meals, particularly their function as “street theater” incarnating his preaching about the reign of God and its meaning in the here and now, is apparent when viewed with this lens. Eating is never just about eating. It’s about sharing life, and with whom our lives are shared. How do we proclaim the death of the Lord by eating and drinking together? We see that the Jesus meals are ultimately laden with the justice and equality of God’s reign. But to turn to God's empire means to reject the other god who makes a claim on our allegiance: Caesar, and those who collaborate with Caesar. This is what leads to the cross, which as a Roman device of punishment was reserved for "enemies of Caesar and the pax Romana." As to the religious collaborators with Caesar, the Jerusalem priesthood, they resent that Jesus eats and drinks with sinners. By establishing a relationship of life and love with those left aside by what would become the “kosher” laws of the covenant, and by further claiming a special relationship with God, he makes himself in their eyes a blasphemer, putting the unclean next to the ineffable, and therefore, in their eyes, he has to die. 

We proclaim the death of the Lord when we eat and drink the sacred food in the Eucharist, but that all has meaning because of the way we live the other 167 hours of the week. Just as the meals of Jesus, including the Last Supper, had a meaning beyond simple sustenance, the Christian Eucharist has a meaning because of the way we treat each other and live in the justice of God’s reign during the rest of the week. To the extent that we are good news to the poor, that we cast out demons that hold people and groups of people hostage to evil, that we heal the wounds of sin and division in the world, that we live an alternative to false peace and counterfeits of wealth and power that are the commerce of the world, then our Eucharist proclaims the death of the Lord until he comes.

The body and blood of Christ are not an object to be adored on a shelf, even a holy shelf. A person is never an object; a person is a subject. The Eucharistic body and blood of the Lord is a person, is Christ, and as such includes us, called and transformed by the Holy Spirit to be something more than we thought we were. The body and blood of Christ are a living presence, are a living sign of what God continues to do in our world through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church. In us, the community of the baptized, the gospel is preached and lived, good news is alive for the poor, freedom is announced to captives, the forgiveness of debts, the sabbath-jubilee of God is made present and unforgettable to both those who long for its coming and those hostile to it and covetous of their own comfort and wealth. Those who share this sacred food are bound forever to the death of the Lord, and, as so many advocates for the gospel have found over the centuries, destined for the same treatment as their Master.

All that having been said, I wonder how many churches experienced homilies based on the last line of Sunday's first reading from Genesis?

Catholics could use a little pep talk on tithing. The connection between the Eucharist and tithing is probably a mystery to more Catholics than either its connection with the Lord’s death or his real presence. But at its center, it is water flowing from the same well. Remember the admonition to “love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and soul and mind and strength”? Well, “strength” in that sentence, in Hebrew, means “wealth.” 

Ka-ching, Catholics. It’s about time the word became flesh again, doncha think? ☺

PS - if you like this way of thinking about Eucharist, and want more to think about or share with others today, look back at this blog post of mine, from Holy Thursday, on "real presence."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My middle name is, "By the grace of God"

My late friend and mentor, Fr. Jim Dunning, used to call himself and others by that name: Jim "by the grace of God" Dunning. Rory "by the grace of God" Cooney. How right he was. Is.

Today's my dang birthday, there's no escaping it. But I will not be writing much today. Tonight we will be celebrating my son Desi's baccalaureate for his graduation from Carmel Catholic High School, with actual graduation to follow tomorrow night. Terry and I, along with Lara Lynch, Gary Daigle, Steve Michels, Nick Bisesi, and lots of students from Carmel will help provide the music for the liturgy at St. Paul the Apostle in Gurnee. Desi's sister Claire arrived earlier today from Rhode Island. What he doesn't know yet is that two of his beloved brothers from Phoenix, Jeremy and Declan, are arriving late tonight to be a part of the festivities, God bless them. Desi will be blown away when he arrives back here from working out later this (Tuesday, as I write this) evening and finds them hanging out in his basement lair. It will be an excellent moment. (Crap, as I wrote this, their flight is delayed due to weather here...I hope that is the only delay.)

Anyway, I'm so grateful for my life so far, mom, Terry, brothers, sisters, children, friends, colleagues,
and everyone who has supported and affirmed me in life. You know who you are. I don't mean to leave  anyone from my past, present or future out. That pretty much includes the whole universe. I will leave today with words I've quoted before, the lyric of John Bucchino's beautiful song "Grateful," recorded both by the artist and Art Garfunkel. It says what's in my heart. Thank you, too, for checking in with my blog. We're going over 22,000 page views today, which is just staggering to me! Below the lyric there are iTunes links to both Artie's and Michael Feinstein's versions.

I've got a roof over my head,
I've got a warm place to sleep.
Some nights I lie awake counting gifts
Instead of counting sheep. 
I've got a heart that can hold love,
I've got a mind that can think.
There may be times when I lose the light
And let my spirits sink,
But I can't stay depressed
When I remember how I'm blessed

Grateful, grateful,
Truly grateful I am.
Grateful, grateful,
Truly blessed
And duly grateful. 

In a city of strangers,
I've got a family of friends.
No matter what rocks and brambles fill the way,
I know that they will stay until the end. 

I feel a hand holding my hand --
It's not a hand you can see
But, on the road to the promised land,
This hand will shepherd me
Through delight and despair,
Holding tight and always there. 

Grateful, grateful,
Truly grateful I am.
Grateful, grateful,
Truly blessed
And duly grateful. 

It's not that I don't want a lot
Or hope for more, or dream of more,
But giving thanks for what I've got
Makes me so much happier than keeping score. 

In a world that can bring pain,
I will still take each chance --
For I believe that, whatever the terrain,
Our feet can learn to dance.
Whatever stone life may sling,
We can moan or we can sing. 

Grateful, grateful,
Truly grateful I am.
Grateful, grateful.
Truly blessed
And duly grateful.

Grateful - Grateful - The Songs of John Bucchino
Grateful - Playlist: The Very Best of Art Garfunkel

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Being Right" as religion

I think of this as reaping the whirlwind of the Enlightenment. 

Cardinal Sveum discusses a nuanced theological point with a faculty member
at the American College.
They say you recognize the faults in other people because they are a mirror in which you see yourself, for better or worse. I am a cradle Catholic, raised on the Baltimore catechism (I went to public school until the fifth grade, and the catechism was a staple of the CCD), I loved learning, and my parents were insistent that I work hard and get good grades. The way we were taught was that for questions there were answers. There was the occasional Thomistic modesty, acknowledging the ultimate unknowability of God, but there was also a lot of hubris related to knowing the “right answers” to questions we hadn’t even thought of yet along the way. I was on the debate team for four years in high school. Politics was a polemical issue in the Vietnam and Nixon years especially, went into hiding during the administrations of the avuncular if murderous Reagan and Bush One eras, then came out of the closet for the rollercoaster of Clinton and descent into hell of Bush Two. What has gone on since then makes polemics seem old-fashioned and polite, and the internet's obsession with the anonymous poison of "comments" bears no relationship at all to genuine human discourse.

Church politics has hardly been less cacophonous, as the debate over worthy ritual has raged since the Council in the mid-sixties, and the ancillary debate about music has rocked on the pendulum while that half-century long clock has ticked. Church-state issues, the morality of sexual and reproductive issues (the fact that I would separate those two into different issues!), issues of authority, all of these have generated as much or more disputation as liturgy. Meanwhile, the internet has added as much heat as light to the fire, making it possible for wild and baseless disinformation to be spread around the world at the speed of light, while it has also made access to actual news, research, and responsible opinion democratically available as well.

The thing that occurs to me about all this is that in the area of religion especially (but certainly not exclusively) values like equality, dialogue, the ineffability of the divine, loving one’s enemies, consensus, common good, general welfare (pick your platitude), they all go by the wayside during a disagreement on principle. What has emerged in our culture of relativism is that there are no objective criteria for evaluating the relative worth of arguments. The individual, and therefore the opinion, is the first authority. Talking heads from Limbaugh to Carville spin the truth (when they bother to check their facts) and the noise begins. Catholic blogs from left to right, citing chapter and verse of the Bible, the Fathers, the Councils, and the liturgy demonize those with points of view divergent from their own. 

To me, in other words, we’ve lost the object of the quest, whatever that might be - intimacy with the divine, a community of mutuality and equality, to create a “more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty,” (pick your platitude) - and instead substituted being right as the object of the quest. It’s being right that we’re willing to fight (and die?) for, and not for the more elusive subjects of the quest. The ultimate arbiter of truth is, well, me, the individual, and in the world of the internet and soundbyte, opinion is the same as fact. Whoever is still standing at the end of the shouting match is the winner.

Being right has become a substitute for religion. It’s being right, in our own minds and to our own way of thinking, that gives meaning to our lives, not achieving consensus or grappling with other people’s perception of truth. And there’s no legitimate challenge to our perception of our rightness unless we have a personal encounter with a more persuasive truth; it’s not good enough that another has already had the experience, I have to have it for it to be valid. It’s as if, in order to ascertain the murder is wrong, I have to kill someone to be sure. This is the ultimate victory of the Enlightenment and modernism. Now, not even science matters, unless it’s my science, or the science of people who agree with me. It’s possible for a government to deny the Holocaust, or global warming, or to posit the existence of fictitious weapons of mass destruction, or for a church to know that homosexuality is objectively disordered or that life begins at conception without consulting anyone who has actually studied these things, or has had any experience with them. We are in global denial about the experience of other people, and feel it’s all right to believe whatever we want to believe about anything.

Which is where the gospel comes in, and it seems to be where there is no substitute for the gospel of St. Francis. He told his little community to preach the gospel, and when necessary, to use words. The only way for the gospel to have a chance of taking root in people’s hearts in a shouting, subjectivist culture like our own is to do the gospel, and that’s the way it’s always been. Dominic Crossan wrote a book a few years ago entitled God and Empire, in which he describes the milieu into which Jesus was born and in which the Jesus movement blossomed during the first century CE. In the pre-enlightenment world, he says, the fact that a god might have been born as a man, or walked on water, or was raised from the dead might have generated some interest, but the question at the heart of the listener would be, “Yes, but what good does that do me, here in the heart of Roman Empire. I know what Caesar can do, I have experience of what the pax romana is. How is your god any better than he, who is also named Savior of the World and Prince of Peace?” After a brief word of evangelization, or maybe without it, the apostle might invite the hearer to a meeting with other Christians, where the person might discover a community of mutuality, of shared possession, where no one went hungry while others had more than they needed. An experience of a Christian community at work was an experience of the gospel, and the way that Christ and the message of Jesus spread across the Mediterranean and outward. 

It’s just this kind of evangelization that’s needed today to heal the kind of tyranny of the ego that masquerades as dialogue. The center has been lost. There is no common sense of the divine, there is no general understanding of the common good or any altruistic instinct left in us. I think the best we can hope for is to talk gently to each other, strive for consensus in our parish communities, and act with vigor and integrity on behalf of those who are without a voice and without power in our society.

Chances are, this will be perceived as Being Wrong, which is the antichrist in the religion of rightness. But it seems to me we’ll be in good company with Christ, the incarnation of a god who cared so little for being completely right (what else can god be?) that he emptied godness out and became a fallible human being like us. Being right did him little good either, and eventually he went to his death in silence. But even at that, he is the image of the invisible God, the manifestation of the paschal mystery of divine agape made flesh. We Christians have a God who doesn’t seem to care about being right as much as about loving, creating, healing, feeding, affirming. To me, captain of the high school debate team who took political science at DePaul in 1972 using Mike Royko’s book Boss as a textbook, that sounds like the music of liberation.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Of others there is no memory (Memorial Day 2013)

This morning, we celebrate a mass at St. Anne for Memorial Day - a mass of resurrection for all those, especially friends and family members, who died in war. Here are the songs we're going to sing:
Entrance: Be Not Afraid Bob Dufford
Psalm 23: My Shepherd is the Lord Joseph Gelineau, SJ
Communion: No Greater Love J. Michael Joncas
Going Forth: Eternal Father, Strong to Save

As a matter of policy, I try to avoid too much hullabaloo about national holidays on Sundays, especially this one, which often falls during the Easter season (not this year). At first, because people were accustomed to something different, and because some priests can't resist bringing some patriotic or holiday fervor to their homily, I used to get a lot of grief because we didn't sing patriotic songs at Sunday mass when Monday was a holiday. Over the years, as people understood that I wasn't anti-American, but I was just for liturgy that was catholic (i.e., universal, and not offensive to Christians in other countries, worshipping the one God), people have warmed to the different approach, so we generally are able to use a votive mass for civic observances or some such on holidays.

In the case of Memorial Day, we generally use texts from the Order of Christian Funerals, which has a wealth of prayers for different occasions remembering the dead. One scripture that doesn't appear there is a text from Sirach 44 that I use for the first reading. I think it was set to music by Vaughn Williams, and I remember that a fellow musician I knew in college had attempted to set it to music as well. It has so many wonderful thoughts in it that seem appropriate to the day, so I pair it with John 15 ("there is no greater love than this..."):
Let us now sing the praises of famous men,

our ancestors in their generations.

The Lord apportioned to them great glory,

his majesty from the beginning.

There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,

and made a name for themselves by their valor;

those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;

those who spoke in prophetic oracles;

those who led the people by their counsels

and by their knowledge of the people's lore;

they were wise in their words of instruction;

those who composed musical tunes,

or put verses in writing;

rich men endowed with resources,

living peacefully in their homes--

all these were honored in their generations,

and were the pride of their times.

Some of them have left behind a name,

so that others declare their praise.

But of others there is no memory;

they have perished as though they had never existed;

they have become as though they had never been born,

they and their children after them.

But these also were godly men,

whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;

their wealth will remain with their descendants,

and their inheritance with their children's children.

Their descendants stand by the covenants;

their children also, for their sake.

Their offspring will continue forever,

and their glory will never be blotted out.

Their bodies are buried in peace,

but their name lives on generation after generation.

The assembly declares their wisdom,

and the congregation proclaims their praise.

I'm particularly grateful today for two soldiers who did not perish in war, my mother's husband Kent Larson, who survived when the destroyer upon which he served in WW2, the U.S.S. Walke, pictured here, was torpedoed and sunk in 1942 in the battles around Guadalcanal. A third of the crew of the
USS Walke, 1942
destroyer was killed, but Kent was one of the survivors. Kent lost his battle with cancer in Safford, AZ, a few years ago, with my mom taking care of both of them, but he was a great blessing to my mom, loving husband for many years. I prayed for him today, and I hope you do too.

Of course, the other soldier is my son Joel, a Marine reservist, who was in country at the beginning of the second Iraq war, part of a bulk fuel unit supplying a line between Kuwait City and Baghdad. I'm very proud of Joel's service, and eternally grateful for his safe return. And I can't think of Joel without thinking of my friend Courtney's son Keefe, who is still a Marine officer, and who spent some months in Afghanistan this year, and Johnny Moran, who used to sing in my teen choir, and whose armored vehicle was the target of an IED a couple of years ago. Johnny, thank God, survived, and is doing well. 

I also remembered today Stephen Hepner, related to me only by marriage. He was the brother of my Uncle Tom's wife Eleanor, and also a Marine. He died in Vietnam in 1967, just over 44 years ago. He is mentioned in one of the key chronicles of the early part of the war, The Hill Fights: The First Battle
2nd Lt. Stephen Hepner
of Khe Sanh
, by Edward F. Murphy (ISBN-13: 9780739303290). There is a memorial to him on the "Virtual Wall" here. In part, this is what it says about him, and his death:

The 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, had been in and out of Khe Sanh area several times during the spring of 1967, participating in the famous "Hill Fights" in the mountains surrounding Khe Sanh Combat Base. They were "in" during the latter part of April, and on 30 April lost 17 men in a bitter engagement with the North Vietnamese Army on the jungled slopes of Hill 881 South. 3rd Bn, 3rd Marines lost 27 more in the battle. Two days later 3/9 had another loss - 2nd Lt. Stephen Hepner was shot and killed while leading his platoon in the area of the 30 April fight.

I am reminded today that, however we might feel about the morality of this or that war or the men who commit young men and women to fight them, those who actually do the fighting have often very little choice in the matter. Of course, in wars of many generations, there was a draft, so people were "randomly" selected to fight. Others are forced by economic necessity, or risking a better future for themselves and their families, to enlist in the armed services in order to get the benefits offered to soldiers. It thus falls to us to honor the sacrifices they make, especially when that sacrifice is that of their life, health or limb, and to keep the promises made to them at enlistment for health care and education benefits. While the wars themselves might be necessary evils to overcome greater evils, or reprehensible incursions begun out of greed, vengeance, economic imperialism, or just paranoia, most who actually fought and died did so out of a sense of duty, hope, and honor. 

So Stephen, thank you, and thanks to all who gave their lives in order that others might live. Thanks to those who have given their lives as well in the cause of peace and non-violence. Thanks to those who served honorably and came home to build the country, like Kent and Joel. Thanks to those who refused to serve and gave witness to peace, like my brother-in-law Gary. Old as I feel this week when I will celebrate my 61st birthday, I'm trying to exercise my fragile memory, and not forget the courage of those who risked everything for those whom they loved. That, at least, is something I would do well to learn, and assimilate into my soul. May I, and all of us, be willing to "give up our lives for our friends," and may our friends, those whom we love with the love of Christ, include our enemies and the poor. It seems to me that only in this way will we ever beat our swords into the blades of plows, and finally study war no more.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How a songwriter thinks about God - Trinity Sunday

What is God like? I don't know. Ask a theologian.

I was just reading about Pope Francis speaking on this very issue, and the difference between the way normal people think about God, and how professionals do. I probably fit somewhere in the middle of all that, so I'd need to ask him for some clarification. But yesterday (actually, today, Saturday 5/25/13, in Rome) he made this observation, according to Whispers in the Loggia:
"The faith of the People of a simple faith, a faith that is perhaps without much theology, but it has an inward theology that is not wrong, because the Spirit is behind it."
The Pope mentions Vatican I and Vatican II, where it is said that "the holy people of God ... cannot err in matters of belief" (Lumen Gentium). And to explain this theological formulation he adds: "If you want to know who Mary is go to the theologian and he will tell you exactly who Mary is. But if you want to know how to love Mary go to the People of God who teach it better. " 
He goes on to talk about the way people who want to draw nearer to the Lord through the sacraments are received in our parishes and by clergy. I hope his legislative acumen matches his pastoral kerygma, because as it is one has to be prepared to trample a lot of church laws in order to give the kind of pastoral care he wants. To be true to his own proclamation, I think the pope needs to liberate the local church within the law, so that pastoral response to need doesn't have to jump through a lot of ecclesiastical hoops. It's disingenuous to say "love, invite, receive" when the law says "check the documents, know the words, follow the rubric." But the proclamation itself is a breath of fresh air, and a liberating public espousal of the gospel.

So when it comes to asking what God is like, and singing about that like we might on Trinity Sunday, and writing songs that might contribute to the repertoire of the people of God to sing about God, I think
the same rubric has to apply. Unless we are going to depend on theologians also to be musicians and poets, which for a few is possible (Fr. Jan Michael Joncas, for one obvious example) but which finds most of us on a sliding scale of expertise in one or more areas, or leads us to collaborate with others who are stronger in a one of the fields in which we are weaker. But even though the music is public and intended for as wide an audience as we can find, the work of writing songs is intensely personal, and it's not always easy or even possible to share that creative process with another.

In the parish, I tend to try to sing a range of approaches to the love of God on Trinity Sunday. We are as likely to sing "How Great Thou Art" or "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" as we are something like Brian Wren's "God Is One, Unique and Holy" with Gary Daigle's melody, or Bernadette Farrell's "God Beyond All Names." The way people express divine love within them is all over the place musically and theologically, just like love outside the church walls is. It is as varied as eros, philia, storge, and agape, with a good side serving of mania as well. But since divine love is the origin and destiny of all of it, we have to at least attempt to give it a voice if we can manage it. Ironically, I suppose, I have the hardest time with the more affective side of divine love. I'd almost rather sing a chant in Latin than attempt a praise chorus. There's more irony in that, now that I think about it, than I can even begin to express. Next thought...

"You Alone," which I wrote in the early 1980s, is a solidly unitarian love song that praises the loving-kindness of God with words of scripture and St. Augustine. It makes no mention of God as trinity, but that is not its intention, and it has no theological pretense about it. It's more "I love you because you're beautiful" than it is "A you're adorable, B you're so beautiful" catalog of divine attributes.

"You Are a Sacrifice" was written several years later, with more parish life and certainly more theological reflection than I'd had in previous years, due to my interaction with John Gallen and other colleagues in liturgy and music (Gary Daigle, Ginny McKinley-Temple, Suzanne DiGiovanni, Mark Mellis, and others) at the Corpus Christi Center in Phoenix. In early summer in the mid-1980s, passing through St. Louis for some reason or another, possibly even for Trinity Sunday, I remember sitting on a porch at Terry's house, or Fr. Ed Murphy's, somewhere, and writing a song called "You Are a Sacrifice," and singing it at mass the next day, or soon afterwards. This song was consciously trinitarian, but coming at it from the angle of agape in the language of "sacrifice," that is, holiness as complete self-gift. This sacrifice is the nature of divine being, is the core of revelation as incarnate in Jesus, and is the only sure sign of the presence of God in anything that anyone does, or any Church does.

"Father, all we have is from you.
Universes you have made
For the joy of giving to Christ, who gives them back to you.
And at the finish, you are undiminished,
You are a sacrifice of love.
Accept our fading light that Christ more brightly blaze.
With Jesus,
Receive us, a living sacrifice of praise.
And Christ did not imagine
Glory was a thing to grasp,
Rather, in the image of you,
He emptied himself.
And at the finish he is undiminished,
He is a sacrifice of love.
Your Spirit lives in us to show
That life is to be shared,
And the finest love is life that's given away.
And at the finish, we are undiminished.
We are yours, a living sacrifice of love.
Accept our fading light that Christ more brightly blaze.
With Jesus,
Receive us, a living sacrifice of praise.
© 1987 NALR, assigned to Rory Cooney
More recently, I wrote a song (not recorded yet) called "O Agape", originally entitled, "Credo," but that seemed too personal and therefore probably confusing. It is a longer text, but I just thought, to give you an example of where my writing about God has moved more recently, I would share part of that lyric and another one here, since there are a just a few of us who are here, and we're all people of good will. "O Agape" starts out by crying out to God, "O Mystery beyond my grasping, beyond the breadth and height and depth," and then trying to identify and reject the counterfeits of God that vie for our allegiance. In its final stanza, the hymn comes to a creed that climaxes in the refrain we have already sung three times:
I know you in your sacred word,
In shepherd, gate, and mustard seed,
In Good Samaritan, lost coins, and sheep, and sons,
In lily, sparrow, wheat, and weeds.
In healing hands, in those who labor
In field and mill, 'til all be fed,
We keep your memory
In solidarity
By sharing cup and breaking bread.
O agape! Love freely poured!
O Abba, mirrored in the Son!
Sophia, flowing through the world!
Be known in me. Be known in us.
© 2008 Rory Cooney. All rights reserved.
Finally, my choir commissioned a song from me, for them, for my sixtieth birthday a year ago. Again, this unrecorded song is an attempt to express my heart about who God is for us in a way that reverences the experience I have had of God in my parish and particularly my friends in the choir over the nineteen years it has been my privilege to serve them. The song is entitled, "To You Who Bow," and comes full circle I suppose by expressing what appears to be the unifying attribute of the communal God, that is, self-abandoning, creative, non-violent service. None of us can circumscribe or ever define it, but singing gives us a way of reaching together. With these most recent of my songs, along with those reaching backwards forty years, I hope that they help people "grasp the breadth, the length, the height and the depth until knowing the love of Christ, you are filled with the utter fullness of God. Glory be to him in whose power we have infinitely more than we can grasp or imagine!" (Eph. 3:18-19) (music excerpt at GIA by clicking on title)

1. To you who bow
To you who bend
To you who do not cling to heaven
But unto us descend,
You who summon us as servants,
And call your servants friends:
To you we lift our song, 
Love ever new,
O God who bows, we sing our song to you.

2. To you who teach,
To you who heal,
To you, the leper's restoration,
The victim's last appeal,
You whose life is sown and gathered
And offered as a meal:
To you we lift our song, 
Love ever new,
O God who bows, we sing our song to you.

3. To you who weep,
To you who bleed,
Who dreamed the bound'ries of Orion
But will not break the reed,
You who sow the end of empire
With tiny, peaceful seed:
To you we lift our song, 
Love ever new,
O God who bows, we sing our song to you.

4. To you who starve,
To you who thirst,
To you condemned to death by malice,
Abandoned and accursed,
You who promised to the wretched
The last will be made first,
To you we lift our song, 
Love ever new,
O God who bows, we sing our song to you.

5. To you, who rise,
To you, our peace,
To you who lead the way before us,
Whose spirit binds and frees,
At once the alpha and omega,
Whose love shall never cease,
To you we lift our song, 
Love ever new,
O God who bows, we sing our song to you. 

Copyright © 2012, Rory Cooney, all rights reserved.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Trinity Sunday: Non nobis, Domine

“...The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5, 2nd Reading)

When you sit back and think about what is being revealed in those words, it both strikes you that it is both completely astounding and utterly familiar, as though all of the Christian scriptures were saying the same thing, to be echoed finally by St. Athanasius when he wrote, “God became human that we might become God.” In every Eucharist, when the priest pours a drop of water into the wine at the preparation of the gifts, he says quietly, “By the mingling of this water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Here, incipiently in the letter to the Romans, this theology of theosis is nascent. If God’s love, that is, the essence of God, agape, is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, then it is God’s life in which we begin to share. It is God’s life we are living. (Lest you think this is some kind of new age heresy, and the testimony of Athanasius and the liturgy aren’t convincing for you, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, says as much in pp. 460, 1129, 1812, and elsewhere.)

I'm steeling myself for the inevitable homiletic complaint about this being such a "theological" feast, and that all those years in the seminary didn't make a damn bit of difference in understanding what "Trinity" is. And there may even be attempts to speak of Trinity-as-community, as a relational (please God, deliver me from having to ever use that word in a sentence again) reality. I’m really OK with all that. But surely the power-sharing image of a trinitarian God and the kenosis that is made visible in Christ as the incarnation of divine agape have more global and political applications in our day and age. Surely even the pagans can see that it’s good for people to get along and be hospitable to family and friends? But I digress.

It may be a sign of my aging, and of the influence of some of the dialectic reflection on Vatican II during the last couple of decades, that I have the uneasy feeling that the focal point of the liturgy has been shifted away from its center, that is, on the loving action of God in the world, and moved toward the celebration of the community itself. I want to be very careful here. I firmly believe that in Christ, the distinction between the vertical and horizontal in religion has been permanently removed, that God-with-us is the radical truth of Christianity. I totally believe that, and I believe that the community is the visible manifestation, the sacrament, of the invisible reality of God’s action in the world. But the community is not God except perhaps eschatologically, and I’m not even sure about that (who is?) For us to be true to one another, and to be sure we’re not deluding ourselves about our political, social, and religious agenda, we really must keep God at the center of our belief, and specifically, the intimate, kenotic, communal God revealed by Jesus Christ.

The way we do that, I believe, is by the liturgical action of the Eucharist, which for us is the action of Christ worshipping the Father. To Jesus Christ, who is head of the body, all of us are incorporated by our baptism, and thus the worship of the Father is an action in which we all participate, but not through our own desire or intention. It is through, in, and with Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that we are able to participate in this great and eternal act of worship between Christ and the Father. This brings me back to the quote that hits me up the side of the head like a scriptural two-by-four from Rom 5:5  - “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” As Jesus said to the apostles on the morning of the third day, “Receive the Holy Spirit. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” It is the gift of God’s own Spirit, breathed into us by Christ on the cross as God did in the first creation of Adam, that gives us the power to live in agape, and share in the paschal mystery of God when we pour ourselves out for the sake of the lives of others, especially the poor and wretched of the earth. We are a new creation. We are not us any more. We are Christ.

Evidence of the shift away from the center is in the need to mention everyone by name and mention the name of every participant in the liturgy from presider through gift bearers, as though they/we were doing the world a favor by living our baptismal promises. Why are there numerous occasions for sustained applause during the liturgy encouraged by presiders, and no such applause for the God who called us together? Why does everyone need to be named aloud, priest, deacon, gift bearers, priest’s mass intentions, relatives of the sick and dead; the list is even longer in some parishes? What does this mean about all those whose names are not mentioned? Are the unnamed sick less on God’s mind, less on ours? The words of Psalm 115, in the haunting melody unforgettably sung by the victorious English after the battle of Agincourt in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V movie, “Non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam” kept popping into my head, I was even singing it last night and today. “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory.” I’m reminded of Jesus’s admonition to the disciples: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'" Instead, we wait in line for applause at a party in honor of the God of the universe, and the shamans themselves are the main cheerleaders.

The picture above is a representation of Russian monk and iconographer Andrew Rublev’s “The Trinity,” one of the most famous icons in the world. The trio of persons sits around a table beneath what might be the terebinth of Mamre in the Abraham story. Their blue robes and halos bespeak their divinity, the circle formed by the line of their bodies suggests their unity. The Father is on the left in gold, the Son is adorned in the blood-red garments of his passion, the Spirit is vested in green, the color that suggests growth and hope. There is an empty place at the table on the side closest to the viewer, and it may be that the Spirit’s attention is drawing us to that place. Could it be set for humanity, for you and me, that place in the circle with the three divine persons? That is God’s nature - shared being, shared power, shared presence, in a dialogue that we on earth can only imagine to be the nourishing, hearty, and robust conversation we know as table talk. However gabby we get about our parish life and ministerial accomplishments, let’s not lose sight of the center, of the One from whom all these blessings flow, through, with, and in whom eternal praise is offered to the Father.

Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Albums (7) or (5.1) - Psalms for the Church Year IV (1990, GIA)

Funny how memory works (or doesn't).

In my last album post, I highlighted 1991's Cries of the Spirit, Volume 1 as the next musical release we had after Safety Harbor (1989), but as I looked back over the CDs themselves, our collection Psalms for the Church Year IV actually came out first. I suppose a little research could have prevented this faux pas of bloggery, but I shall endeavor to get back on the right track.

And if that weren't bad enough, it was also into this collection that a couple of the AssemblyBook psalms, released to me from NALR's copyright ownership by OCP in their acquisition of the company, ended up appearing. Some did in fact end up in Volume 2 of CotS, but two were in this collection as well, and one ended up in the first couple of incarnations of Gather Comprehensive.

GIA's Psalms for the Church Year series began with the venerable classic collaboration between Marty Haugen and David Haas, who contributed several songs each and also collaborated on some settings in the first volume. Marty did volume 2, and Jeanne Cotter wrote music for the psalms in volume three. Our Volume Four had eleven tracks: four were just imported from Safety Harbor, two (Psalm 34 and Psalm 68) were from the psalm repertoire of the defunct AssemblyBook, and the remaining five were psalm settings that I used with some frequency and I thought would round out the collection as a listening experience. One, Psalm 31, "I Place My Life," we re-recorded with Terry singing it on our 1998 collection This Very Morning, hoping that more people would hear it in the context of other music for Holy Week and Triduum.

A highlight of the recording for me was having our friend (and the musician who ultimately took over as music director after I left St. Jerome's in 1994) Mike Wieser sing the cantor part on two of the psalm settings, "I Place My Life" and the Cat Stevens "O Caritas" flavored "Harden Not Your Hearts." Mike's rich baritone had graced our recording of the musical Lost and Found as the voice of Papa, and his experience in theater and opera both contributed to making those tracks simmer and sparkle with emotion.

I was also proud of some of the metric paraphrases I had done on the psalms I had adapted for AssemblyBook, none more so, really, than the verses of "You Have Made a Home for the Poor," which was included in the first editions of Gather Comprehensive at GIA, and if one can believe reprint usage reports, were fairly well received. Just as an example, one section of the psalm in the lectionary (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C), reads:
The father of orphans and defender of widows
is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken;
he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.
A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;
you restored the land when it languished;
your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided it to the needy.
These verses I rendered as:
A mother to the orphan, the widow's strong defender,
This is how our God is: both terrible and tender.
With mercy for the lowly, God builds for them a home,
And leads them into freedom in a land to call their own.
Upon a thirsty nation, you rained refreshing rain,
And when your own were starving, you gave them life again.
So where there once was nothing, a nation formed and grew.
A home at last, a country vast, the poor received from you.
As with Cries of the Spirit, some of these songs go back to the earliest days of my songwriting, when I was still in college. The earliest composition was Psalm 119, Happy Are Those Who Follow, which I wrote for some weekday mass during college, probably in early to mid-1972 or so. As I mentioned some of them were much later, the collaborations with Gary being written in the late 1980s and I'm guessing that the actually writing of "I Place My Life" may have been as late as Lent of 1989 or even 1990.

The psalms I most commonly used of this group were Psalm 95, Harden Not Your Hearts, and Psalm 146, Praise the Lord, My Soul, because they are so useful in the lectionary both as proper psalms and as seasonal (common) psalms during Ordinary Time. Really, who's going to use my version of "Cry of the Poor" as long as they can get their hands on the John Foley classic? Which is fine! But what I wanted to say was that there was definitely an osmotic effect of this music on the children, and Desi especially, since he got dragged with us on so many concerts and gigs, as well as having the privilege of attending mass in the parish all the time. I hope to leave you with a very brief video of Desi as a toddler, sitting on the couch at some time, and doing what kids do: imitating what they see us grown-ups doing. Hilarity ensues. We haven't forgotten this scene in the fifteen intervening years.

Finally, a friend just asked me if there was a "SongStory" about "Psalm 8: How Glorious Is Your Name." It's not a long story or a dramatic one, but there's this: I wrote Psalm 8 right after I announced to my friends at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix that I had, happily, been hired as the music director at St. Jerome's, a few miles up I-17. I told a bit of this story in my personal "triduum" story in the blog post entitled, "Anniversary: My Half-life as a Music Director" back in March. I had worked at the cathedral, and co-directing the diocesan chorale, for a number of years, and had good friends there, and a longtime mentor by the name of Jim Mahoney. One of the wonderful cantors at the cathedral was a dear woman named Aleene Fuentes. When she heard I was leaving, she asked me to write a piece of music with her in mind. One of the approaching Sundays was Trinity Sunday, and in year 1983 (another year C year) the psalm was Psalm 8. So I wrote Psalm 8, and she didn't like it very much! I think it was too angular harmonically, the way the verses play around in related keys and don't stay very close to home (compared to songs she liked, I mean.) Luckily for me, though, the song grew on her, and she told me so many times in the months and years afterward.

OK, enough about this album. As promised, here's a one-minute clip of Desi, about age 3, singing part of track 9 and track 11, accompanying himself on guitar. "I'm Gary," he says. If this player doesn't work for you, try this YouTube link.

Track List (clips of all songs available on GIA's website here.)
  1. Psalm 32: I Turn to You
  2. Psalm 30: I Will Praise You, Lord (music by Gary Daigle)
  3. Psalm 34: Cry of the Poor
  4. Psalm 31: I Place My Life
  5. Psalm 8: How Glorious Is Your Name
  6. Psalm 119: Happy Are Those Who Follow
  7. Psalm 95: Harden Not Your Hearts
  8. Psalm 63: My Soul Is Longing
  9. Psalm 68: You Have Made a Home for the Poor
  10. Psalm 116: I Will Walk in the Presence of God
  11. Psalm 146: Praise the Lord, My Soul

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Christ and the Spirit (This is your brain on too much oxygen)

For some reason, this year more than others, I've been required to think and pray about the Holy Spirit more intentionally than I have before. For one thing, in the second week of Easter, I made a five-day presentation at our parish's GIFT lifelong-learning sessions entitled, "I Believe in the Holy Spirit," the final installment of the year-long series on the Apostles' Creed. For that, I concentrated on two aspects of the title statement: what is belief, and who is the Holy Spirit. Since the answer to the second question is, of course, "I don't know," I stuck with what we can glean from our sacramental experience in initiation (baptism, confirmation, and eucharist) and scripture, particularly the Pentecost narratives of Luke (in Acts 1) and John (19-20, the passion and resurrection narrative).

Then I had to give that webinar last week, an introduction to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and as I got into that, probably because of where my mind and heart had been with the GIFT presentation and my predilection for starting from liturgical experience, I decided to approach the RCIA from a "Pentecost perspective." What I mean is, anyone interested in RCIA has been at Mass for the last 90 days, through Lent and Easter, and remembers the experiences and texts of the Triduum. And the webinar was scheduled on the Thursday between Ascension and Pentecost, so mystagogy and preparation for all that was fresh in everyone's mind. So I decided to look at RCIA through the lens of its fulfilment, that is, through the ends of eucharistic life and mission, in order to consider how preparing catechumens, and for that matter, calling the unchurched into belief, might be based upon a vision of what we hope we all intend to be: apostles and martyrs.

The new creation that is Pentecost gets two different interpretations in the New Testament. One is the version in Acts, heard as this past Sunday's first reading; the second is from John, utterly different in delivery, but towards the same end, directed toward the mission of reconciliation. I gave an overview of this a few weeks ago, right after Easter, in a post called "The Fifty Hour Pentecost." But it is liturgically remarkable that this same brief gospel holds the center of the mystery both at the beginning of the Easter season (on Easter 2) and again on Pentecost, at the end of the season. This says to me that I should be paying special attention today, because the Church wants me to hear this gospel on two Sundays in two months, a unique occurrence in the lectionary cycle.

We get a lot of insight about Christ, the Father, and the Spirit in these few lines of John 20.
  • The breath (spiritus) of Jesus is an act of creation, recalling Genesis.
  • Shalom is the new normal, the conviction of Christ's living, abiding presence that overwhelms his death.
  • This new creation is oriented toward mission: "I send you."
  • The mission upon which the church is sent is the Father's mission. ("As the Father sent me...")
  • The mission is related to God's forgiveness, and needs to be an visible manifestation of divine mercy. The church, in other words, we, ought to be a sacrament of the forgiveness of sin, the inalienable mercy of God, inviting, inviting, inviting. It's us or nothing. We have to be a clear alternative to "business as usual" in the world of Caesar: peace through violence and threats of violence. While some hear the end of Jesus's summons to forgiveness ("whose sins you shall retain...") as an authorization not to forgive, I hear the whole statement in context as saying, "What you do matters. My Father's forgiveness will be seen when you forgive. When you don't forgive, people will see that as God not forgiving. So for God's sake — forgive!"
All this is by way of setting up this little insight that came to me while I was hyperoxygenated and puffing down Miller Road Monday. Yesterday, I ended my blog with the statement that "Easter is Pentecost." After I posted it, as I was running, it struck me that Good Friday is also Pentecost, because, as I pointed out in "The Fifty-Hour Pentecost," from the cross, Jesus "handed over the spirit" with his last breath. So Good Friday is Easter is Pentecost. Thus, in at least one interpretation of the Christ event in the church, the death, resurrection, and sending of the Spirit upon the church for mission all happened in the same instant. And what struck me, and of course I have no idea whether this is "true" or not in any definitive way, was that it should never have surprised me at all. Because, for us who believe in God as a trinity of divine love, as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" in traditional description, there is no disunity among the three. The Father who sends, the Son who is sent, and the Spirit whom the Son and Father send upon the Church together to do the Father's mission of unity, forgiveness, and reconciliation, are one. God is one and three, and the death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Spirit, though distinguishable as events in our imagination, are also one event. Or maybe not the same event in any historical sense, but reveal the same God, one Spirit who proceeds from Father and Son, in ancient credal language.

But the issue, I suppose, is not just figuring that out, or admiring it, or disproving it, but doing something about it. And all of this reflection about mission and Trinity and the mystery of the paschal God sort of set us up for next Sunday, doesn't it? And just as urgently, it urges us with the voice of the white-robed strangers (angels? neophytes? are they the same?) from the Ascension story to do more than sit around gazing up into the sky. Christ is right here among us, in everything we do for others, and in all those whom we meet who are in need. We proclaim an alternative vision: an "empire" of mutual service, with an emperor-God who leads the way by washing feet and not clinging to godliness. The dying breath of Jesus is the breath of life that God breathes into the clay that is us, the church. "When you send out your breath, things are created again. You create the world all over again." Violence becomes service. Imperial might becomes bending down. Judges become healers. Let's believe in that world, and get busy living in it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mystagogy for dummies (like me) - Pentecost edition

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ. (1 Cor 10, second reading for Pentecost)

As the Father has sent me, so I send you. (Gospel for Pentecost)

Almost no one is born loving in agape. Most of us learn the hard way, the long way. We journey through the ages of humanity, the stages of development, the path of “self-actualization.” We learn to love from eros and philia, from the thrill and pleasure of loving, from the security and acceptance and transparency of presence to one another, from the fierceness of a mother’s defensive love, a father’s laughter, the often indefatigable and unalienable devotion of brothers and sisters, or grandparents.

Somewhere along the line, if we’re lucky, it strikes us that we’re not the center of any universe but our own, and that to become part of the truth of the universe we have to turn outward toward others. We hear the obvious truth of the life of the grain of wheat. It’s not at all that there’s anything wrong with eros and philia. It’s just that they are there to lead us to the Source, the love that is pure life-giving, that is independent of feeling, reciprocation, or even belonging, because it participates in life itself, and finds the source of its joy from its dissipation on behalf of the Other.

Honestly, I’ve been so selfish for so long that I don’t even know how little I do for other people. It’s just in the last couple of years, really, that I’ve consciously stopped ignoring things I don’t do because I don’t feel like it. It’s like it dawned on me, in my late fifties, that to love other people isn’t about feeling anything, it’s about doing. It doesn’t matter what I feel, only what I do. Eventually, with some reflected living, some feelings might catch up, but if they don’t then somehow the actions themselves, if they are selfless, are part of the paschal mystery, and are life-giving in and of themselves to me as well as to whomever I might have served. It’s hard to imagine it’s taken me so long to even begin to grasp this. And don’t misunderstand me — it’s not like I’ve suddenly become Mother Teresa or Mia Farrow. Just a little bit less Falstaff, or Oscar Wilde.

It’s so obvious, but sometimes it’s just words. Like, I remember Tom Conry once laying one of his famous dictums on me, “Liturgy isn’t about making people feel good; it’s about making people feel like doing something good.” And on the level of drama alone, that’s a world of difference. It’s a movement from the self and eros toward the other, and agape. When that other moves outside the circle of friend and family, that’s the purest form of agape. It’s certainly true that true love is like the river; it doesn’t matter where you drink from, the river is the same. One can be truly, completely selfless with a lover, or with a son, or daughter, or parent, or friend. But Jesus, it seems to me, wants to make a point about this in his culture, which is already loyal to a fault to its own. In the Sermon on the Mount, making a point about loving those who love us, he tells us, “Don’t even the pagans do that?” So the real test is loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us. But try that in the "universal prayer" (the general intercessions or prayer of the faithful) some time, and see how fast the good Christians shoosh you out the door. “For the safety and well-being of al-Qaeda, let us pray to the Lord.” “For the Taliban, the Sendero Luminoso, the Crips, the Bloods, the 18th Street Gang, let us pray to the Lord.” And praying for them is hardly dying, or living, for their good.

For the believer, this relentless divine love is at work even in those who have not heard the Name of God, or who have heard it and rejected it. Every moment of longing and alienation is a doorway to the infinite. God’s life is invitation, the available experience of accepting, unconditional love. The question becomes, who will echo the path of the love which “lets the rain fall and the sun shine on good and bad alike” in the life looking for that kind of a God to believe in? Whose Church will be a safe harbor like that, whose preaching of the gospel will be the way it lives and worships and serves the neighborhood?

Maybe that’s the “so what” question that follows the proclamation that we are one body, sent by Christ on the Father's mission of reconciliation and unity. St. Paul was asking it already just twenty years or so after Jesus's death, and long before John's gospel was finally written:
...How can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?

And how can they hear without someone to preach?

And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10: 14-15)
Belonging, in Christ, ultimately means being sent. Love, like God, is not satisfied with itself, it is by its nature outward bound. If this “here comes everybody” party is ever going to get underway, we’re going to have to get the word out. Into every cozy upper room, into every lakeside breakfast, into every comfortable Christian’s life from Vatican City to Lake Zurich, a little fire must fall. Love is mission. Belonging is being sent. Easter, the paschal mystery of God, is Pentecost.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"As though this singing were the breath of God"

Happy Pentecost, everybody!

This Very Morning
by Rory Cooney

As though this breeze were born of hov'ring wings,
As though this singing were the breath of God,
As though this world were wet from recent birth,
As though these thankful tongues were all the tongues of earth,

As though our eyes were lit by tongues of fire,
As though on clover paths God spoke our name,
As though a slave awoke in freedom's light
As though from death a dream might leap, as day from night:

Let us rejoice!
This very morning,
This is the day that God has made:
Let us be glad now!

As though all chaos hushed at God's command,
As though earth's bounty might be shared by all,
As though from human sin a promise bloomed,
As though we wept, and saw thru tears an empty tomb,

As though no pow'r might hold God's own in thrall,
As though no human grip could grasp and hold, 
As though a king could fear a baby's cry,
As though a god might hang a strongbow in the sky.

Let us rejoice!
This very morning,
This is the day that God has made:
Let us be glad now!

As though a God might kneel to wash our feet,
As though new wind and flame might rout our fear,
As though a gift were given for every need,
As though the bread we break might all creation feed,

Let us rejoice!
This very morning,
This is the day that God has made.
Let us be glad

© 1998 GIA Publications. All rights reserved. 

Song link at iTunes: This Very Morning - This Very Morning