Tuesday. The last presanctified! Almost makes you long for next Lent to begin. Of all the beautiful liturgies of the church, this one is among the most poignant. It almost breaks the barrier between heaven and earth.
And as it ends, there we are standing on that threshold peering into heaven, but knowing we must sink back into earth. But surprise, we don't sink back, but rise higher... because a sermon of Roman Melodius is to be sung... Isn't this Lent, the penitential time? What could be left for Easter?
I don't know if I've experienced a most translucent liturgical moment than the singing of this sermon this week.
I don't remember the words, but the places they led. The singer opened up the words. He seemed made to sing them, in this way and in this place. If he was born simply in order to sing this sermon, his life was enviable.
It seemed as though there were two parallel stories being told in the sermon.
One was the voice of love's longing and love's fulfillment – the one who has searched all her life and finally been found – who has discovered the source and goal of life, and by it become aflame with longing again! She tells and illuminates not only her own story, but others' too, other stories we've been hearing during Lent and will hear during Holy Week. And ours also?
She's found her heart's desire, and it has freed her. She's discovered herself not as a sinner, but as a lover; not as ugly and shameful, but as gorgeous and wonderful. She's let go restraint, sense, courtesy, rules, protocols, and just poured out her love right where it belongs. She's happy; she's joyful; she can show us things we thought we knew, and disclose their true shape and beauty. This story is vast! It's like a first glimpse of the mountains, the ocean, the farflung galaxy. It opens up the heart and makes you want to sing too, makes you feel like you could sing the way this singer is singing this woman's song.
The parallel story was the nattering, chattering, mumbling, murmuring, grumbling, complaining voice of law, sin and punishment. Voiced (as they say in the cartoons) by Simon and the Pharisees. But she's this, but she's that; but she deserves, but we deserve; but we didn't give our permission; but she's too provocative; but she's a harlot, and we all know where that leaves her; but we know God and he doesn't work that way; but this is too big for our tiny minds and scrawny hearts; but but but. So small, so insignificant, so self-destructive, niggling, petty. So familiar!
Is the choice ours, which story to be part of? Which voice to sing with?