Sunday is supposed to be a day spent in church. Literally it turns out, for me, today.
We start out at the Melkites, at Holy Transfiguration parish in McLean. I've been attending Divine Liturgy there weekly. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to worship with our Eastern brothers and sisters. Today, my novice brother also accompanied me.
After Divine Liturgy we book it across town for our apostolate at St. Martin of Tours on N. Capitol, a vibrant urban parish, largely African American. The 12:15 pm liturgy is the Gospel Mass. St. Martins' Gospel choir is well known, and they raise the rafters with their music. [And yes, it's quite a shock to system to go from Melkite to Gospel back-to-back!]
After Mass I stay for the Confirmation class. There's myself and a diocesan seminarian from TC helping the catechist in charge. Today, we're leading the session, focusing on Advent. We had the students do some skits on Scripture passages -- the Advent stories from the infancy narratives in Luke and Matthew. I never thought I'd hear myself say, in an attempt to clarify the Angel's message in the story of the Annunciation, "Hey, Mary! You're cool wi' God, ok?"
Back to the house for the briefest of respites and lunch (like at 4 pm), and we're back at St. Martin's for their annual Christmas concert at 5:00 pm. This features their Gospel Choir, the traditional choir, the youth choir and their liturgical dancers. The church is full, and the atmosphere festive. The kids get standing ovations (I recognize a couple of my Confirmation class students in there). Of all things, I found their rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" to be quite delightful!
At 7:30 pm I'm up the street from our place at Theological College, for their Advent Lessons & Carols. I was quite tired at this point, but didn't want to pass up an opportunity to attend a service focused on Advent, and not Christmas ... [really, why don't some parishes put on Chirstmas concerts in the Christmas season too?]. And man, this was amazing. Simply amazing. Beautiful music -- chant, polyphony, congregational singing, organ meditations (including a selection from Messiaen's "Nativity Suite" superbly performed by the seminarian buddy who's with me at St. Martin's. A talented musician, for sure!), interspersed with lessons from Scripture. My favorites were Rorate Caeli (see post below), followed by one of my all-time favorite hymns, "Let All Mortal Flesh Be Silent," in resounding polyphony. The 16th century French carol, "O Come Divine Messiah" is still ringing in my head. The brief homily was about St. John the Baptist and his cry for repentance. I left on a huge high. And it was just the right thing to set the mood for this season of quiet and reflective preparation for the Nativity, as well as a perfect book-end to a churched-out day!
[Part of my delight is surely because I know that the probability of hearing any of this music at our place is slim to none ... :: sigh ::]
Talk of cultural diversity! I believe I traversed from the Middle East to song inspired by the descendants of African slaves to solid Roman chant and the rich tradition of classic Catholic European music.
A truly Catholic Sunday.
[And in case anyone is wondering, we have weekend Mass at the seminary on Saturday evening. This is designed to give us the freedom to be involved in apostolates on Sunday.]
[Long days starting in the morning filled with liturgies and meetings and odd meal-times are so reminiscent of my days as a campus minister! I miss y'all at STM!]