Greetings and Happy Easter from Wexford!
I offer this blog to you in the midst of a much needed rest after all the activity building up to Easter Sunday. To continue in the spirit of our previous two blog-posts I would like this entry to acknowledge the point in liturgical time at which we find ourselves, having just celebrated the feast of Easter, which is truly the zenith of the Christian year. In Easter—or Resurrection Day—lies the key to understanding why Christian Faith is such a dynamic force and a source of immeasurable joy in the lives of its adherents. Through Christ’s death, our death has been conquered, and through His rising, our life has been restored! Our little community here at Clonard joined with the rest of the Christian world last Sunday to give full expression to the joy that this mystery engenders. But of course, the week leading up to Easter in the Church doesn’t serve us that unbridled joy on a silver platter, but pulls the faithful through an intense array of observances and emotions as it calls to our minds the last days Our Lord spent on earth before his miraculous rising from the dead. And for me personally, being present as a musician and worshiper for all of the unique liturgies preceding Easter Sunday gave rise to some remarkable experiences of communal prayer this year. I’ll mention just a few here:
On Palm Sunday—or the Palm Sunday vigil, rather—it was our Vigil Choir’s heralding the entrance of the priests through Steven Warner’s epic setting of Sing Hosanna! that struck me with such power. Ruairi’s booming voice sang out each of the verses with only the organ doubling his melody, and then on each response—Hosanna on high! Lauda! Praise the Son of David!—the whole choir and congregation would lift up their voices exultantly, and the organ & piano together filled out the sound with magnificently rich chords. In addition, Ben took up the tambourine at each interlude to add a rhythmic touch to the jubilant cacophony. And the song is perfect for the occasion: It is regal and majestic, but mostly written in a minor key, shading the exultation with a sense of foreboding that hints at the rapid change that takes place in the Jerusalem crowd’s treatment of Jesus between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
On Holy Thursday, just before we descend into the darkest moment of the liturgical year, we celebrated the Feast of our Lord’s Supper, remembering the night of the Last Supper—a moment so important to Catholics as it is the genesis of our Eucharistic tradition. At Clonard, we marked this Paschal Feast amid the fasting with a special celebration that brought together the two choirs under Teach Bhríde’s direction—the Vigil Choir and the Youth Choir—with the Clonard Family Liturgy Group (the church’s children’s choir). There were several moments from this mass that struck me. Perhaps one of my favorite was when the time came after the Gospel to reenact Christ’s washing of the feet. What I liked about the particular manner in which Clonard observed this tradition was that it was not only the priest doing all of the work, but all of the lay people who went up to get their feet washed by the priest also took part in the sacred, symbolic act of humble service by bringing up as a small white towel and bending down to dry one another’s feet afterward. It seems to me that this really evinced a strong spirit of community involvement that pervades Clonard and makes it a great parish for Irish Catholics to actively live out their Faith by volunteering their time and service. As I was sitting at the piano playing the instrumental outro for The Servant Song, I glanced over my shoulder to check on the progress of the rite. I saw in a brief moment two people who had just put their socks and shoes back on stand up, exchange a silent nod and a grateful smile, then turn to bow towards the altar, before returning quietly to their pews. In observing that fleeting moment of gentle eye contact, I felt like I was able to see so clearly the real sacramentality of the foot-washing rite in action. I could see that the foot-washing was not merely functioning as a dramatic re-enactment or a cute symbolic gesture. It was enabling human connections to grow stronger and was actually making present the same grace and power that Christ gave his disciples when he said to them, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
There is so much more I could say about what made the rest of the Triduum and Easter Sunday a really special time for us here in Clonard, but I will spend no more words on it here and now. May you all have a blessed Easter season!
Christ has risen from the dead! Alleluia! Alleluia! Let our thoughts, words, and actions proclaim with joy His Gospel of new life for the world!