Friday, April 14, 2006

Notes on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Before I write anything else, I'd like to thank my parents for the Easter care package I received today - I'm especially thankful for a loaf of Mom's homemade banana bread, which made it safely through the mail and now sits on the cutting board in the kitchen here. Even on days of fasting and abstinence, there's always time for banana bread.

For a long time, I assumed I would take in this year's Triduum at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii a few blocks from the Jesuit community in which I live. Our Lady of Pompeii has many virtues - a small but friendly community, good liturgy and preaching, and a general aura of neighborliness and familiarity. However, as Holy Thursday rolled around I felt a growing desire to do something new and different - to go to a church I hadn't been to before, perhaps one run by a religious community of which I had little or no experience. Accordingly, I attended the Mass of the Lord's Supper at St. Michael's, a Redemptorist parish in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood. The Redemptorists are traditionally considered exemplary preachers, and the homily I heard last night suggests that they deserve this reputation. There are two elements of the Holy Thursday liturgy that I particularly look forward to - the washing of the feet and the singing of Pange Lingua as the Blessed Sacrament is borne in procession throughout the church - and to my satisfaction both were present at St. Michael's. After Mass, I did something I've never done before, taking part in the ancient tradition of visiting seven churches on the night of Holy Thursday. St. Michael's was the first of these, and from there I headed to several parishes in the Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods of Chicago: St. Clement, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Josaphat and St. Alphonsus. I had checked ahead of time to make sure that each would be open, and in most cases I found numerous parishioners inside the darkened church praying before the reserved Sacrament. The sixth and seventh churches I visited, Our Lady of Mercy and St. Gertrude, were a bit further afield and were chosen for their connections to two of my brother novices: Our Lady of Mercy was once Jake Martin's home parish, and Jim Shea was an active parishioner at St. Gertrude's before entering the novitiate. Visiting and praying at the preceding seven churches was deeping moving for me, and I hope to keep up the custom of the Holy Thursday pilgrimage in coming years.

In keeping with the spirit of trying new things and encountering different religious orders, this evening I attended the Liturgy of the Passion at Immaculate Conception Church on the Northwest Side of Chicago. Immaculate Conception is staffed by the Passionist Fathers, who make daily meditation on Jesus' passion and death the center of their spiritual lives. The motto of the order says it all: "May the Passion of Jesus Christ be ever in our hearts." Supposing that the Passionists would have a particularly deep appreciation of Good Friday, I made the long trek to the Northwest Side to experience today's liturgy at Immaculate Conception. The front pews of the church were dense with Passionists from their residence next door, many wearing the distinctive logo of their order (pictured above) on the breast of their black cassocks or on red stoles. Following the traditional reading of the Joannine account of the Passion, the presiding priest gave a pretty decent homily focusing on the words "I thirst" in the context of Jesus' life and in our own. In general, the Passion as commemorated by the Passionists at Immaculate Conception was a strikingly sober affair, which was fine by me. Having attended a few overblown Good Friday services in the past, I was pleased to encounter a quietly dignified Passion liturgy at Immaculate Conception. I suppose it's natural that Good Friday would be a pretty understated affair for people who reflect on the Passion every day. That being said, I wonder how the Passionists celebrate Christ's Resurrection. I could easily find out tomorrow by returning to Immaculate Conception for the Easter Vigil, but I think I might just as well leave that experience for another year. AMDG.


At April 15, 2006 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jos -
Glad the package arrived safely and on time. I hope the residents and visitors at St Ignatius enjoy the banana bread as much as the Loyola House crew does.
Talk to you soon,


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