Monday, October 22, 2007

Movement and stillness inherent in the Sorrowful Mysteries

Reading Garry Will's book The Rosary: Prayer Comes Round, I realized that I needed to get back in the gym as that is where I pray the rosary. For me, it's a movement meditation. When I got there Monday, I discovered that I didn't have a bible with me, which was really annoying, because I like to start from the scriptures -- to be grounded in the scriptures. Usually, I choose one mystery, read the associated scripture passage, and spend my whole prayer time on it. So, since I couldn't focus on one scripture passage and mystery, I decided to do a whole rosary (or five mysteries), and given everything I'm going through, the sorrowful mysteries seemed right. Sometimes, one just needs to turn it all over to God in prayer. So, as is often the case, my prayer time in the gym was very enlightening. Helpful. Wild the insights I get in that gym.
I thought of Jesus facing death and how it must have felt. 1. The agony in the garden: "Not my will, but yours be done." It really is tough to acknowledge that one's life (or a chapter of life) is ending, to truly let go, to say "Good-bye." To see death foreordained and keep moving toward it.
I had been pacing round and round the gym counter-clockwise, then clockwise, then back and forth before beginning the rosary and through that first decade, and I was beginning to want to end what had become an almost frenetic pace.
2. Scourging at the pillar: Ah, I stopped moving. This mystery is still. Jesus wasn't moving. wasn't allowed to move. trapped. The mystery requires a giving in. an acceptance of fate. I stood by a volleyball pole (my pillar). Just said the prayers in place. (Of course, if I had been identifying with his floggers, the movement would have been frenetic.)
3. Crowning with thorns. I'm on the floor, sitting regally. Again, this is still. just take the mocking. Jesus didn't respond. No point in dignifying the taunts with a response. He knew the truth, his inner truth. Didn't matter what others said. What strength Jesus had to just take it quietly.
4. Carrying the cross. now, I'm moving again. slowly though. resigned. with a large imaginary cross on my back.
5. Crucifixion. I'm against the wall now. my arms up. I keep sinking down and then revive myself, trying to hold my arms up. I have to endure ten Hail Mary's before it's finally over. A death on a cross is slow and painful . . .

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why pray through Mary about Jesus?

I went on retreat at Techny Towers this weekend, and I recommend the place. It is right on highway 43 in Northbrook, Illinois so the buzz of traffic let me know that I wasn't too far from civilization, but there was a certain joy in waking up early in the morning and appreciating the surprising, almost miraculous silence, waiting minutes to hear a car go by. A still point of calm. God rested.
The food was superb as was the bookstore, where I spent quite a bit of time. And, I bought a lot, forgetting that I had biked up there. Let's just say I was loaded down on my way home today.
I was excited to find a new resource for my upcoming retreat, Dancing the Rosary: Moving through the Joyful Mysteries, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, in Romeoville, IL: twenty greeting cards with images of the twenty mysteries of the rosary painted by various masters. Just exquisite.
Also, I finally bought Garry Will's book: The Rosary: Prayer Comes Round (I love the subtitle.) I had heard him speak when the book came out and always wanted to get it. I must share with you how he answers this question which he poses: "If our meditations are on the life of Christ, why is the most repeated prayer in the rosary said to the Virgin Mary?" He explains that the Hail Mary is a prayer for assistance in understanding the life of Christ, and Mary is the perfect model to which to turn for such help. Wills goes through the various passages in the bible that mention Mary and shows how she is depicted as puzzling and pondering what in the world Jesus is doing. So, we ask for her prayers, as she has gone before us on this quest. I'm paraphrasing the passage: his couple pages of explanation is worth the price of the book.
While I'm on rosary resources, I have the "Rosary Sonatas" by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber on what feels like perpetual order now. He wrote 15 sonatas for violin and harpischord -- one for each of the original fifteen mysteries of the rosary. Can't wait to get them.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dancing the Magnificat w/Rory Cooney

The very first liturgical dance that I did, I'm proud to say, was "Holy is Your Name"  the Magnificat  Mary's prayer of social justice, which she said when she visited her cousin Elisabeth after having learned that she, of all people, was about to give birth to God. Since the words of the Magnificat are not specific to her situation, it was most likely a common Jewish prayer of the day. So, in her unimaginable situation, Mary fell back on a prayer she had most likely repeated many times before. Her reliance on rote prayer in that time of trial reminds me of a Catholic friend of mine, who doesn't understand why I dance the rosary, admitting that, in childbirth, much to her surprise, it was the "Hail Mary" that came out of her lips. 

Anyway, I was at Old St. Pat's on Sunday afternoon, spending much more time "rehearsing" than the piece actually required. What I was really doing was praying, praying the song in my body over and over again in the near empty church. I knew I was off with the tempo and timing, and I was a bit frustrated. (This was before I had learned to ask the musician with whom I would be collaborating to make a recording of the song for me to use for rehearsal.) Eventually, preparations began for the 5PM Mass, and a man sat down at the piano and started playing a few notes. Seeing my chance, I went over to him and asked, very politely, if he might do me the great favor of playing "Holy in Your Name," just once through. I could get him a copy of the sheet music. He said, "Oh, I don't need the music" and then proceeded to play the most voluptuous version of the song I would ever hear, and I danced with abandon. Good music is so essential to good dance. That ad-hoc rehearsal was the worship; the later prayer service a required coda. Several of the people in the church commented to me later. It was one of those magical, Holy Spirit moments. Only afterwards did I learn that the musician was Rory Cooney  a composer (not of that song, but) whose church music I have always loved.

Anyway, last week, I happened on Rory's blog and share a link to a great entry. Insightful and humorous, the blog exudes Rory's wonderful personality. I'm not a sport's fan, but I've always been interested in secular ritual. Rory's comments on what liturgists can learn from baseball games is quite pertinent. Thank you, Rory.

Congregational singing at Wrigley 

"The experience of shatteringly good ritual singing, like an assembly of 40,000 being led by an organist and a tone-deaf trio of basketball players from Northwestern, is something to which all church musicians ought to aspire. We can learn a few lessons from this experience, to wit:
  1. If the assembly knows the song, it doesn’t matter how bad the cantor is.
  2. If you don’t change the song all the time, people learn it by heart, and teach it to their kids.
  3. Rhyming is good
  4. Concrete language is good (e.g., “peanuts and crackerjack,” instead of “snacks and candy”; “Cubbies” instead of “home team” ☺)"
(updated link)