March 17, 2015
"Time outside of time" is a phrase we at Rez have associated with Holy Week over the years. This became truth for me during the Good Friday singing of the Misere by Gregorio Allegri. Walking out the Stations of the Cross is a holy devotion in any setting, be it on the cobblestone pavement of the Via Dolarosa in Jerusalem or within the concrete block walls of the old Ministry Center on College Avenue.
In 2014, we shaded our eyes from the sun as we stood before each rough hewn cross, revisiting the agony of Jesus. Children listened from strollers and perched upon daddy's shoulders as we processed around the new building. It was a simple exercise. Unexpectedly we came back inside the building for the last station and clustered in the Narthex. The solemn, black shirted choir ascended the great staircase, and time and place departed. As they sang the opening measures of Allegri's setting of Psalm 51, we joined hands with the saints of ages who have stood throughout the world united by the groan of sin:
"For Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: but Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise."
As I clenched my eyes shut, I was worshipping with the Benedictine monks on top of San Miniato al Monte who sing the Latin vespers each night, with Mozart who first heard this sung in the Sistine Chapel, with the Orthodox who visit Saint Basil's Basilica in Moscow. How vast is the family of God. As a thank you to Steve Williamson and his choir, I offer this poem.
Sunsets blue on San Miniato al Monte,
keeping time with Vesper monks,
chanting Latin in dusty robes as
yellow warmth stripes the ancient floor.
with incense, harmonies unseen.
Sunlight bridges an ocean of years,
antiphonal groanings now in street clothes.
Scuffed shoes ascend, descend
modernist steps and answer
the hunger of hearts for echo,
of cries unceasing,
Linking us with the holy,
with the solely, devoted
of His choir.
Click here to listen to the Resurrection Chancel Choir singing the Allegri Misere.