After a stunning Maundy Thursday, Good Friday was pretty tough, I was altar serving, and reading the ‘other voices’ parts of Johns Passion, on four hours of sleep and no food… Speaking in front of hundreds of people while light headed and dyslexic is pretty stressful. Anyway I think I did very well if I say so myself. Its a very fine line between giving proper inflection to the words, to acting. I can’t bear it when readers think they can act, it really is excruciating and certainly not what the readings are for. Anyway I especially enjoyed the dichotomy of starting my lines as a housemaid and ending them as Pontius Pilate.
But if I’m honest the passion readings trouble me, perhaps that is the whole point. They put us in positions of people we really do not want to be. St John’s gospel is the most sympathetic towards Pontius Pilate, but it was very uncomfortable saying his words. And I know its very uncomfortable saying the words of the crowd especially ‘crucify him, crucify him’. I also think that this combined with the fast does lend itself towards a depressing effect and I am very vulnerable to that. Anyway, the passion narratives certainly are powerful. But there is a truth in here, that our sins crucify Christ, this is the horrible truth, that when we sin we sin foremost against God as King David tells us in the psalms.
My second grumble is that this time running, the music choices were poor to say the least. We had one or two good old hymns, but other than that it was drivel. We had I the lord of sea and sky during the veneration of the cross… We had the negro spiritual Were you there when you crucified my lord? including the last verse about the resurrection. Sorry we haven’t got to that bit yet. Also I don’t think a negro spiritual is appropriate to an English Church for the simple reason that it is so totally unlike the rest of the music we are unfortunately subjected to. It is out of context and sticks out like a sore thumb. Fine in a southern baptist church where it fits with a culture and tradition. But its not the tradition of the Catholic Church, which is chant, Mass settings and silence. Yes, that last one, silence, why do a choir need to fill every second with music? even if it were Mozart I’d tire of it. Sadly the culture of the Catholic Church in this country has come to accept a protestant form of worship which doesn’t fit into and around the Mass but is instead a patchwork of hymns (often of dubious quality) isolated from the liturgy.
My third grumble isn’t mine particularly, but one I’ve heard rumbling around traditionalist circles. That is the Pope kissing the feet of the ‘apostles’ at Maundy Thursday liturgy. Including an Islamic woman. None of the Apostles were women and none of them were Islamic. What is more kissing their feet is not in the rubrics. Basically the grumble is, while it may have made for a good photo op, it was liturgical abuse, and this from the man at the very top and this makes the lives of traditionalist priests very difficult indeed.
My fourth grumble is that a friend of mine posted online that she had trouble with Islamophobia. My problem is that I think there are deeply troubling aspects of Islam that it is perfectly rational to find very unsettling. I could list hundreds of examples, but I suppose the number one example is that if anyone criticises Islam, then they put themselves at risk of being beheaded and the video put uncritically on Islamic TV. This they say is only Islamic fundamentalism. But I’ve been told on good authority that the Koran specifically says that its laws are to be interpreted literally and that to change a single letter of that law is blasphemy. Thus to be a truly orthodox Muslim you must call for the imposition of Sharia law globally. The vast majority of western Muslims are good people, in fact they often put us Christians to shame. So why isn’t the Islamic world a bastion of civil liberties and harmony?
My fifth grumble is that this is 4am, and I can’t sleep.
Anyway, enough of grumbles, as a complete change of subject I saw this sports piece on Basketball, and was reminded of a time when I was briefly a big fan of the sport. I can remember hearing a story about Michael Jordon, that he was so phenomenal that the top players of his day gave this advice to rookies, don’t look in his eyes. Why? Because he would see that as a personal affront to his pride. The story goes that the Chicago Bulls were losing, quite badly. Then someone had the temerity to think they’d beaten this king of his sport, they looked in his eyes, daring him to do his worst. He did his worst. Won the game single-handed for his team scoring more points than the rest of his team combined. Sporting pride is weird, because I think it is one of the few types of pride that is virtuous. And sports that are for pride rather than money always have my deepest sympathy.
The Olympics, the Oxford Cambridge boat race, the ashes, boxing, heck even the Eton wall game where in the most important match of the year “there have been no goals scored in the St. Andrew Day game since 1909.” This is truly where its not the winning that counts, but its the taking part. Money in sports can mean the sport loses a certain something if you ask me. In the Superbowl this year, in a very overly defensive game, the winning team intentionally gave up points at the end to kill the clock and win the game. There is something wrong with a game where such cynicism is the acceptable price for winning. Don’t get me wrong I love American football, often precisely because it does call on people’s pride, the offensive and defensive lines, often comprised of lets say, generously proportioned men, are often the key to winning, if you can’t win the battle at the snap of the ball your team has no chance. Anyway its now five in the morning and my musings are even boring me so adieu.