April 5, 2012 – Holy Thursday
I am a part of the Triduum choir at our church. I joined the choir late last year, but this is an extra, above-and-beyond choir that sings for the Holy Week services. I have never attended the Holy Week services and this is a good way to get me there. I have often wanted to, but I get lazy at the last minute. Plus, I would have been going alone, and that really doesn't seem like that much fun anyway. But, this year I am part of the choir, which is an integral part of the services. I have a reason to be there, which is why I joined the choir in the first place.
We have been working since early February on the Triduum pieces. Ren, our music director, has led us through rehearsals and I’ve followed blindly, learning my parts as he threw them at us in no particular order. He would talk about them and where they fell in the week as if we all understood every part of it, and I'm sure that those who have been singing for years do understand, but I was just going along with the herd. Now it's all coming together. This last Tuesday we rehearsed in the church rather than in the music room and it all kind of found its place and most of the songs I knew because Ren had taught us so well. (There was one I had never seen before, which is strange, but enough people knew it that I could follow along, which is what he was counting on, I’m sure.)
So, after learning all sorts of music that seemed to come at me at random we finally arrived at Holy Thursday. We were called to arrive 45 minutes early. We warmed up and went over one piece, then he released us for 15 minutes because he said we were ready; there was nothing else for us but to wait for Mass to begin.
As Father Larry said in his homily tonight, this week is a roller coaster of mood swings. Four days ago on Palm Sunday the Psalm was number 22, My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me? Then we sang praises and waived palms at Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Then we heard the Passion. Now, Thursday is here and it’s the Last Supper. We’re singing praises to be with Jesus on this Passover meal, but we know what’s coming. For my part; I am feeling a little – and genuinely – solemn.
Ekaterina, the accompanist/pianist did a solo during the washing of the feet. She is beautiful and incredibly talented, and though it probably looked awkward I leaned over to see around the people in front of me, to see her eyes focused on the music as she played. The music from a piano has a special place in my heart and without expecting it I was reliving emotions from 20 and 30 years ago. I was a small child listening to my sister play. I was longing to be accepted by a group of siblings who have a different father than I, and who are a generation older than I. I was longing to play the piano and play well, to make the beautiful music that they made when they played and sang because then they’d accept me. I was practicing the piano, trying to learn to play as beautifully as the people I heard at church, practicing against the ever-present tension in the family and the TV that was never turned off. I was longing to be a part of a family that was mine, but which I wasn’t a part of… and no matter how much I practiced I couldn’t make a place in it. I was swept away with Ekaterina and the beautiful sound of the piano playing alone, the simple song she was playing seemingly without effort and the look on her face as her eyes read the music.
The oils have been presented. We’ve had the ceremony of the washing of the feet. We’ve taken communion. On the night of the Last Supper Jesus gave us our Holy Communion, and then he was arrested. We began to sing/chant Holy Is God/Pange Lengua – part in English part chanted in Latin. We got through two verses of the chants and Father Wade stood and picked up the Blessed Sacrament, turned and began a procession out the door and out of the church. We follow, singing the English refrain over and over. And over and over.
I think about the emotions of the night. Part of me thinks that I feel at home in melancholy. No, I take that back. I know I feel at home in melancholy, but I think there’s more to it than that. The piano music brought back memories, but they were just that. I was remembering the emotions, but I was doing it from a new perspective – different than what I had even a year ago. I have made my place in my sprawling family. I don’t have time to practice piano or voice as much lately, but it is a good goal for myself now, not a desperate attempt to fit in. And more than anything, after reliving all of those feelings and emotions, when I sit here quietly contemplating it all I realize that I do love the music of a piano. And, Ekaterina is beautiful, and her eyes are beautiful when she’s reading the music, and her playing is something special, something I can appreciate now while I have it. And it was wonderful to be a part of a group of people who sing, and to be a part of this celebration of Holy Week with St. Thomas More Catholic Church, which is now my church home.