Saturday, June 7, 2014

something altogether ancient

Souls like the wings
 Spreading out
Away from bad memories
--The Avett Brothers Souls Like the Wheels

The repeated phrases of Holy Week create a fabric of memory, a common background on which the drama is yearly set.
In this tapestry, there are lines, little phrases from the repeated psalms that are woven so deeply into the celebration of Holy Week transform our memories.
They take words and transform them into understandings.
Throughout the year, whenever I hear Psalm 30 or Psalm 61, it reminds me of the smoke rising from the candles at Easter Vigil. I am transported, by the signal that these words bear, back to the dark Church on that sacred feast.
These signals inside of words become a common tongue, a hidden language, that engender the meaning in them that arises from collective memory.
These pieces of music, these phrases transform the tapestry of the story.
With each retelling, the story only becomes sweeter, deeper.
Each year, it grows richer and richer instead of stale.
It is very strange of us to want anything other than the comfort of a true story being told over and over again.
This human obsession with novelty is rather mystifying.
Perhaps it is because we are not comfortable in our eternal skin.
Instead of seeking to find more truth in the Truth, we desperately seek truths that are new and novel.
But this repeated Truth, over and over again, always reveals new elements of itself.

Priests, when giving out holy communion, either look stoically unattached, or have a general, pleasant smile on their face.
Their faces alternately seek to reflect the solemnity of the moment, or its joy.
They are nothing more than conduits for the host, and they aim to fade into the background.
I opened my mouth to receive the host, and felt the collision of the small white disk on my teeth.
I blushed (can you say: Catholic Girl Problems), but my embarrassment was quickly alleviated.
Oops, sorry! the priest chuckled.
Then, he let out the most ridiculous giggle in the middle of that solemn moment.
Bursting out of him in spite of himself, that laugh cut through the sweet tones of the cantor's "Bread of Life".
I couldn't help but laugh with him as well, my merriment a great bemusement to the gentle but curious-looking cupbearer.
In a flash, I felt that searing joy of reunion I had felt so long ago, in a simple plaster chapel in the hot summer morning, with loud Kolkata traffic outside failing to penetrate the quiet peace within those blue plaster walls.
It was a moment of great tenderness in the midst of a solemn feast.
I felt as though a word that had been spoken to me long ago had come back to revisit me,
as though one of the pieces of the old tapestry had presented itself in a novel form.
The old and familiar was hidden inside something new,
bright as the dawn, and full of gladness.

For the spring that follows after every winter /shake the dust
--Anis Mojanji

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