Monday, March 24, 2008

Random Thoughts and Celtic Knots for Holy Week and Beyond

The editor interviewing me looked at samples of my work, and asked me, "So, when do you get to the point here?"

Sometimes I wonder why I have to. That's why they're called "random thoughts." Do I need to make just one point? Can't I have several? Do people really lose a train of thought when a writer (or a speaker, for that matter) goes from one message to another?

Didn't think so.

It has been a week since I've posted. I have a perfectly good explanation. And judging from the results of this year's Catholic Blog Awards, most of you have taken the news very well. The rest of you were probably like myself; too busy during Holy Week to care.

And another thing. Holy Week is also the reason that March 17th was NOT Saint Paddy's Day this year. You see, the Irish merely THINK they have a claim on him just because he's their patron saint. They don't. In fact, the man known as "Patrick" was not even Irish. Maganus Sucatus (his real name) was a Briton of Roman ancestry, born near what is now Dumbarton in Scotland. This would mean that the Scots have more of a claim to him than the Irish, and even that's not saying much, as he was neither a Celt nor a Pict. But he was (make that IS) a Catholic. And that is what we celebrated on his Feast Day. As a Catholic, he himself would defer to Monday of Holy Week. So the feast was moved to the 15th. Or April 1st. Depending on whether you followed the universal calendar or the one adapted to the Dioceses of Ireland. Or the traditional or reformed calendar. And assuming you were paying attention.

Now, about that explanation...

Back in my younger days, I would be prowling the streets of Cincinnati about this time of year, regardless of what was happening in church. Not that I ever missed Mass, mind you. I just had a different set of priorities. And a lot of great friends. I've still got those to this day. The nucleus of Cincinnati's Irish band Silver Arm are Cindy and Steve Matyi (pronounced MAY-tee). We used to hang at places like Arnold's on 8th Street downtown (one of the cities oldest saloons, which to this day is still "authentic" enough not to have air-conditioning), and a little uptown haunt called Hap's Irish Pub, which got super-crowded every year for the big weekend. Anyway, I was at the Matyi's place this past summer. "Sal" couldn't make it, so with the cell phone on speaker mode, we set her up with a chair, and gave her an alternative to karaoke that I'm sure she'll remember. I'd like to think it sounded like The Chieftains performing in a Westport pub owned by a band member. The clip in this paragraph is from a DVD the band made for its "Water from the Well" album.

But alas, this year was different.

For the first time in many years, I forsook the celebration of Easter at the little Byzantine Rite church where Paul was baptized and chrismated. This past week, I was the Master of Ceremonies for Holy Week celebrations at St John the Beloved in McLean. I had to supervise one or two dozen altar boys at any given time, for Palm Sunday, Tenebrae on the night of Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. Tenebrae was the simplest in format, but we had most of the altar servers of the parish there, nearly thirty of them. While the Sunday Masses were in the Traditional Use of the Roman Rite (the "Tridentine," if you will), the celebrations from Wednesday through Saturday used the Reformed missal (commonly referred to as the "Novus Ordo" by people other than myself). But all were celebrated "ad orientem" ("facing East," mistakenly known as "the priest's back to the people), and all used both English and Latin.

(Okay, everybody with me so far?)

Easter Vigil was the most difficult, especially when you have to switch from the Latin to the English missal. The Latin edition of the reformed missal is one I've never used before. As an MC, finding the priest's place at any one time is critical, and I was not used to the layout of this book. Fortunately, I was able to identify the leaders among the young men. Two of the older guys served as my assistants "in pectore," as we discussed personnel and choreography in advance for each occasion. I'd say most of the time we pulled it off, in a manner that would do the Papal Courts proud. For the great Vigil of the Christian year, nothing caught fire that was not supposed to, the giant Easter Candle wasn't dropped, and nobody got hurt. Our pastor is a demanding, no make that challenging taskmaster (who is reading this now, and this isn't news to him), but only because the Greater Glory of God demands the finest.

When it was over, I attended an Easter dinner party, where I finally got to relax.

But not before what happened on Friday morning. I had an interview with a Cajun band from Louisiana. We met at a restaurant. I wish I could tell you more, but the video clip above (the third one) will have to speak for me. It should be coming soon to a webzine near you. As to how Easter appeared in McLean, there are no photographs of which I am aware. But we did have Dvorak's Mass in D, with a full orchestra on Sunday morning. The closest I can find is this performance of the Choir of Lichfield Cathedral. (h/t to Michelle.)

Christus resurrexit, sicut dixit. Alleluia!


Patrick Archbold said...


Garret said...

I managed to snag a couple pics of the altar on Sunday. Regrettably, it didn't turn out well. Needless to say, it all looked really, really nice on Sunday....