April 10, 2012

Diaristic Wanderings

The highlight of Good Friday was going on pilgrimage in the bright sun to the old stone cathedral downtown and seeing our august bishop, successor to the apostles, presiding. I felt mixed emotions at feeling such pleasure during such a somber occasion, the pleasure of listening to the incredible singers and musicians. They were almost too good. The haunting, unearthly refrain, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" is to be heard to be believed. I felt as though I were witnessing the event of Jesus taking leave of his body. Certainly the quality of music and polyphonies stand so far above my own humble parish as to not seem to be in the same league.

The bishop mentioned in the brief homily about St. Bernard saying that there were any number of ways that God could've chosen to save us, but by sending his only Son to die He was, in fact, giving us hope by showing that our greatest sin as a race could be redeemed.

Earlier, there was an interesting payday-Friday radio show that featured the company archivist. She has a nice gig. She makes dioramas from old newsletters and enthusiastically propounds on company history. She's all of, say, 27. I guess the job was created around 2006. I wasn't informed nor asked to apply. I'm wondering if there's a job as a beer writer that I don't know about. I got a mention on the radio show (and a chuckle) when I IM'd: "What a cool job - making dioramas." Something like that. She agreed with my assessment. I also snuck in a question asking if it were true there's a camera in the infamous meditation room, due to the reports of amorous couplings in there. No reply on that one.


Disconcerted to hear that my sister-in-law's RCIA program (she became a Catholic on Easter weekend! Yay!) had a teacher who apparently digressed and went on so many tangents that he didn't have time to get to the Eucharist. Ay-yi-yi. "The source and summit" didn't get a mention.


Wonderful Easter Vigil, my first, slaking a thirst for life that was triggered by seeing so much death at the grim Pompeii exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Seeing skeletons in disarray due to being instantly killed due to something like a 5000-degree cloud of gaseous ash is depressing, notwithstanding the fact of eternal life. What's occasionally disconcerting about the exhibit is how modern these people seem. If ancient Egypt seems so foreign, ancient Rome feels so familiar. The faces on busts are so recognizably modern that one wouldn't look twice if you passed them on the street today. The accoutrements of ancient life look familiar as well - they too played dice, and with remarkably similar looking dice. Gambling seems almost like sex - ingrained in us. And cheating wasn't unheard of since these were loaded dice. None of these strange Mayan temples here. They had pots and kettles, round coins and familiar jewelry. They loved wine, they had little Hindu-ish shrines to their gods, a favorite apparently being Bacchus, the deity of wine. Their homes were nicely decorated with beautiful frescoes. The architecture of many Pompeii houses was just splendid, pleasing to the modern eye, with gardens and pools of water.

On the Easter Vigil: First, I was surprised at how awake I felt. I'd worried I'd fall asleep, given the late hour and the general somnolence that prayer can trigger in me. But I was on the edge of my seat, constantly wondering what was next. It was a sort of "Catholic Disneyworld", with the shock of the new around every corner. When would they light the Easter candle? What was the ancient "Exsultet"? When would the adult baptisms happen? What would the next reading be? What Psalm would be paired with it and why?

I like the readings and Psalms the best, not surprising given how much I've grown to appreciate the Bible in recent years. But also part of the thrill was figuring how much thought went into it, how these readings weren't picked out of a hat but I assume were the result of eons of Catholic evolution aided and abetted by saints and pontiffs from long ago. And of course Scripture itself is the result of a centuries-long vetting, having been slowly determined by the early church.

Some people are more appreciative and attuned to material symbols than me. The Easter candle, the incense, the darkened church (fire laws spoil the effect) and the individual candles in everyone's hand - these things don't have as big an impact on me as does religious art (be it in the forms of statues, stained glass windows, vaulting gothic architecture, paintings, etc..) - or simply words, be they in the form of prayers or Scripture, which is not surprising in a lover of language. And music too, yes. But the other symbols that make the Easter Vigil special in many hearts - the flames and candles - don't do much for me. But then that's part of what makes the church catholic with the small 'c': the reaching out to everyone and to every sense, be it taste, smell, touch, sight and sound. God gave us five senses and the Church is wise to exploit them all in worship.

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