To all of the readers of this blog I extend Easter greetings and my fervent hope that these days continue to be a time of reflection and personal renewal. Happy Easter to you all, and thank you for your continued interest in this poor monk’s Chronicle!
+On April 12th I spoke at the monthly luncheon of the Administrative Assembly at Saint John’s University. Perhaps the best way to describe this group is to say that it includes all those administrative colleagues who are not members of the faculty, and it was the first time I’ve ever spoken to this group. I gave an update on First Generation College Students at Saint John’s, and more particularly described the Immokalee Scholarship Program.
+Holy Week services at the Abbey were over-the-top wonderful. From Palm Sunday through the Easter Vigil the music was particularly inspiring, and the community of monks sang the psalmody especially well. Without the organ our voices resounded strongly through the church. The schola for its part sang a wide range of pieces, beautifully. Fr. Nick’s rendition of the Exultet was particularly nice, while Br. Aaron once again chanted the Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet at morning prayer on Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile the liturgies moved along with grace and ease.
By now, after over 160 years of doing this, people might be inclined to assume that we’ve got this down pat. How hard can it be? Well, it may look effortless, but anything can go wrong at any point. Certainly the Exultet can go awry, as even the best of cantors can get tangled up in this hauntingly beautiful and challenging piece of chant. Many of us have memories of unfortunate experiences, and I recall one instance which I have ever since labeled The Exultet from Hell. Yet another mishap from our liturgical archives occurred when a student, acting as candle-bearer, bowed a little too profoundly when the entrance procession reached the altar. Unfortunately his hair brushed the candle and burst into a lovely blue flame. No harm came to the student, but it brought the opening hymn to a screeching halt. And he needed a haircut afterward.
It’s the absence of such incidents that reminds us of all the hard work that our confreres invest in the liturgy. They make it look easy, when in fact it is not. For the rest of us their efforts make for a wonderfully spiritual experience.
+The two manuscript illuminations in today’s post are from antiphonals housed at the Civic Museum of Bologna in Italy. The first depicts the Last Supper, and it dates from ca. 1275. The second, ca. 1335, shows the empty tomb, with the angels greeting Mary Magdalene.