The View from the Sacristy: Symbols

March 25, 2015 § 1 Comment

screw top

[Editor’s note: This was so good last year, that we are bringing it back this year.]

It’s good to sit and think about altar guild work when I am, every other time, on the move and offering it.  The first real thought I have is it’s an opportunity to handle symbols.  I interact with them.  Some are exalted-looking vestments and frontals, some are prosaic-looking, a large jug of tokay with a screw-cap.  But all are more significant than they appear, and that is the magic.  They as a whole are as whole as the cross itself, the chrism and candle for baptism, the ashes for imposition, the funeral pall. The joy of the sanctus bells.  I don’t know if symbols can symbolize minor things, but these symbols don’t.

There’s a participation with them in altar guild work, of which my part is a caring for them.  Caring for the symbols of our faith!  They are mute reminders of the truth of our faith.  The symbols can be upsetting or beautiful, but this only reminds me of the wonderful thought from Martin Buber’s I and Thou, “ Jesus’s feeling for the possessed man is different from his feeling for the beloved disciple, but the love is one.”

Reminders of mortality or bells pealing a call to receive, the ciborium holding the Blessed Sacrament, the plastic tubs for the foot washing on Maundy Thursday, all these symbols, and caring for them, form an engaged Lenten meditation.

– Robert McVey

The View from the Sacristy: Symbols

March 19, 2014 § 1 Comment

screw topIt’s good to sit and think about altar guild work when I am, every other time, on the move and offering it.  The first real thought I have is it’s an opportunity to handle symbols.  I interact with them.  Some are exalted-looking vestments and frontals, some are prosaic-looking, a large jug of tokay with a screw-cap.  But all are more significant than they appear, and that is the magic.  They as a whole are as whole as the cross itself, the chrism and candle for baptism, the ashes for imposition, the funeral pall. The joy of the sanctus bells.  I don’t know if symbols can symbolize minor things, but these symbols don’t.

There’s a participation with them in altar guild work, of which my part is a caring for them.  Caring for the symbols of our faith!  They are mute reminders of the truth of our faith.  The symbols can be upsetting or beautiful, but this only reminds me of the wonderful thought from Martin Buber’s I and Thou, “ Jesus’s feeling for the possessed man is different from his feeling for the beloved disciple, but the love is one.”

Reminders of mortality or bells pealing a call to receive, the ciborium holding the Blessed Sacrament, the plastic tubs for the foot washing on Maundy Thursday, all these symbols, and caring for them, form an engaged Lenten meditation.

– Robert McVey

The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

March 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death by PilateYesterday, I went to church in the afternoon. I usually love Ash
Wednesday–thinking about life and death and preparing for this holy
season–I like the order and ritual of it all. I like nodding to people on the street who are also wearing ashes. But this year, I found myself lost in the privilege of Ash Wednesday. How many are
unable to take the time to go to church in the middle of the week? How many are ill? For whom is the reminder of death all too present, too imminent? Last week, my grandmother died. Yesterday, I held the prayer book she gave me for my 11th birthday in my hands and read psalm 51. The priest had just looked into my eyes and firmly, sternly reminded me, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It made me sadder than I had expected–it ushered me into a mourning I had not anticipated.

Today, we begin our journey through the stations of the cross.
Throughout the season of Lent, this blog will offer meditations on
this series of moments at the very end of Jesus’ life as depicted in
parishioner James Middleton’s paintings. So today, I face the outset
of this journey with ashes on my forehead, with mortality at the front
of my mind, with loss present and visceral. The stations of the cross
begin with, “Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate.”

It’s a plot point with which we churchgoers are familiar; we recite it
in the Nicene Creed each week. Still, I couldn’t figure out what I was
looking at in the image–faceless bodies holding spears and a seated
body washing his hands in a stream of water–until I turned to
scripture: “when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that
a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before
the crowd.” (Matthew 27:24) The deaths we begin with are complicated;
the mortality we remember at the beginning of this season of Lent is
not simple. Even a ritual as small and seemingly innocuous as washing
hands–what our priests do before every Eucharist–is called into
question as we start Lent.

It is a reminder that we are all called to death, and we are all
called to life. The two go hand in hand, just as the water that washes
us pours through our fingers. And in this liturgical season, the
miracle is that life comes after death. This is why we celebrate Holy
Communion after our imposition of ashes; this is why we can forge
through these 40 days with the promise of Easter on the horizon. As we
begin our journey through Jesus’ stations, may we marvel at the
incomprehensible promise of life which will come out of death.

– Julia Stroud

Ash Wednesday: How We Burn the Palms

March 5, 2014 Comments Off on Ash Wednesday: How We Burn the Palms

Burning of the Palms[Editor’s note: We will post a series of posts from the Altar Guild about why and how we do what we do at St. Luke’s during Lent.]

The ashes we use at St Luke’s on Ash Wednesday are made by burning leftover palms from Palm Sunday. In the past, this was not our practice; we used to use store-bought palms, since one would think that dry palm would burn easily and create very pleasant ashes. This is not the case. The dry palm burns, but it takes some work to make it into ashes suitable for distribution during the service. The first problem is getting the palms to ignite. We used to use lighter fluid to get the palms burning, but that meant we really couldn’t use the result for ashes since I’m sure lighter fluid isn’t good for human skin. Another problem is that the palm veins tend not to fully burn and so the ashes are filled with lumps and hard pieces. After much experimenting, we discovered that a layer of cotton on the bottom of the tub we use to burn the palms gave a good base to the flames and burned hot enough to make ash of the palms. The cotton also kept its integrity so that it could be easily removed from the palm ashes. Another hint for good ashes is to push the palm ash through a sieve once cooled to remove any large veins or other materials which have crept into the ash.

– Sean Scheller on behalf of the Altar Guild

Lenten Quote: St. Patrick

March 17, 2012 Comments Off on Lenten Quote: St. Patrick

“What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were shown to me by the Lord many years before they happened, [he] who knew everything, even before the beginning of time.”

– St. Patrick, The Confessions of St. Patrick

The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

March 8, 2012 § 3 Comments

Fourth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of JerusalemThe hands painted in James Middleton’s 4th Station of the Cross are telling us two interconnected stories: one is the story about how Jesus related to women and the other one is about the intensity of the destitution within which women lived in Jesus’ time.

 Jesus talked to women, prayed for them and was moved to tears when He saw their great suffering.  He accepted the signs of hospitality that women offered him, healed those who had sinned and brought back to life the men who could protect them.  Jesus even engaged in theological discussions with women.  In fact, the Samaritan woman was Jesus’ first disciple in her land.  He did not really care whether women were Jews or Samaritans and women were among the seventy He sent out to preach the Good News.  The word “apostoloi” means “those who are sent” or “messengers.”  There were many female apostles in the 70; moreover, Mary Magdalene and the two Mary’s are the first people encountering the Resurrected Jesus.

 These stories of inclusion and gender equality are in dramatic contrast with the realities of the cultural climate preceding and during Jesus’ times.  The expression “Daughters of Jerusalem,” in Luke 23: 27-31, refers to the poor who lived in the outskirts of the walled city.  The poor were the widows and the children who had no right to inheritance and were abandoned by those who held the patriarchal right of inheritance.  The poor were the sick, the women and the outcasts, who were forced to live in isolation and abandonment by the complacency of the high priests, the aristocrats and the wealthy.

 “Do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and your children.” Jesus was concerned for what would happen to them, since in those days there were three hate-mongers— zealots—whom Josephus called “firebrands.”  Jesus contrasts his preaching to theirs as “green wood.”  Jesus knew that so much hate would end in a terrible war.

 For whom would Jesus be weeping today? Who are those among us weeping and wailing? Who are the hate-mongers in today’s struggles for dignity, justice and peace?  How can you and I stop the efforts of the firebrands of our time?

– Anahi Galante

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Lenten at Blog of St. Luke in the Fields.