Thursday, October 9, 2014

a steady plea for grace


On the other side of pain, there is still love
--Madeline L'Engle




The beginning of this song is like springtime--it's like new life seeping out of the corners of sound.
It makes a tingle run up and down my spine, as the melody sliding up and down the scale creates a sound that sounds like it rips open the fabric of everyday life. 
It is noise like that that reminds us that there are stars being born in the world outside our windows. That there is transcendence floating through the air like nitrogen.
At least, that's how I felt when I first heard the notes float through the dank basement rehearsal room (not so very dank--they have a Psalm verse wall-stencil on the cream-colored cinderblock walls!) in St. Patrick's Cathedral.
This is music. This reminds you of what it is to be human.
And, thank you, Youtube video, for revealing that the composer is a Pulitzer-prize nominated composer. Well lah-dee-dah.
Also, I personally think that the most compelling part of the piece is the first minute. If I were you, I would just replay that part over and over again on a loop, until you are a complete puddle of tears, or you drive your roommates crazy and they murder you.
But, in all seriousness, I think that a part of why this is my new Favorite Piece of Music (it's a much-coveted and elusive title. I mean, I've had Nicki Minaj/Ariana Grande/Jessie J's "Bang Bang" stuck in my head all day, so Mandatum Novum's had stiff competition for the title. Just kidding. It absolutely didn't. Ariana's got me chair-dancing at my desk to all her funky beats, but this beautiful, lyrical anthem could certainly could show her how to graduate.) is this:
I'm newly falling in love with the Washing of the Feet.
Holy Thursday has never been my favorite holy day. I knew it was a day of unparalleled excellence, but it just sort of seemed to be like a large drumroll leading up to the real business of Holy Week--aka Good Friday and Holy Saturday--and the real drama of the week. Holy Thursday was meditative and slow, and the mass was interrupted not by dramatic communal readings of the Gospel or the veneration of the cross--events filled with movements of the heart and pathos, but by the ceremony of the washing of the feet.
And I knew that washing of the feet represented service to others, making ourselves servants for others, blah, blah, blah.
But, then, I read Benedict XVI, and my world theologically exploded. (Everyone should say this sentence at least once a day.)
For, the Washing of the Feet, in Benedict's reading of the passage, is not just Christ's example of serving others, of being a servant of the servants of God, as all the priests, bishops, and cardinals are called to be, rather, it is something more.
As Christ washes His disciples feet, He is the one cleaning them.
None of their ritual purifications or ceremonies are enough to make them truly clean, truly holy.
God's holiness will be sufficient for us.
We are only as clean as we will let Him make us.
The sacrifice that Christ is about to make on Calvary the next day will make us clean. 
Christ offers us His purity to clean us, and His love to wash us.
It is free--it is an absolute gift--our feet are washed by Christ, who loves us with a humility and a simplicity that turns the old and fragile world into something green and hardy and full of springtime.

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