Following a rather tumultuous year, I am a bit saddened at not having had the blessing of playing for Masses at the beginning of this new year.
I recall, vaguely, that Johann the Great (Bach, of course) around the year 1705, composed his organ prelude on a well known chorale, The Old Year Now Has Passed Away. The piece is not something which is considered very uplifting for the new year, by modern accounts. It's sad, ponderous. But why?
Consider that Germany had not yet fully recovered from the Thirty Year's War. There was still pestilence and plague. There was still much fighting over religion, even though Martin Luther had committed his sin of disobedience nearly 150 years earlier. The chorale itself need not be sung like a real dirge, but certainly text and tune call for some modicum of insightful vocal interpretation. After all, the people had barely survived the previous year, and... well next year might be just as bad. But we made it through, by God's good Grace.
I wonder how I would have explained that to my congregation, called together by the Church to celebrate the Immaculate Conception.
Certainly the joy of Mary's pregnancy should be highly celebrated. But maybe today we need to become a bit more introspective - maybe even all year long.
Mary's pregnancy was filled with hazards. She could have been stoned. She could have just been turned out from the circle of family and friends. How dare she do this?????
Certainly, too, life at Nazareth wasn't like living in a penthouse suite. Maybe no suicide bombers, but there were marauding Roman soldiers here and there. They really didn't care that much about Nazareth because it wasn't advantageous as a political and military stronghold. The sewage system wasn't up and running. Nor was the Verizon wireless network. The lifespan then was perhaps 30 years or so less than ours today. Old people in their 70's and 80's were a rarity. Old was 50 honey. Which means that by their standards, I'm ancient.
In our time we have political upheaval and unrest. Politicians on the take, and manipulating the lives of millions so that they can keep their power. A power given them by God. The level of moral turpetude grows exponentially each year. Every good invention is beseiged by those plotting to find ways to use it for evil.
Maybe, as we consider the Immaculate Conception, we need something soulfull and insightful as we prepare to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice. Something other than "Hey, how the hell are you all on the brand new day of the brand new year. I'm Fr. Turkeybone, the pastor here at Veil of Veronica community, and along with my trusty assistant, Fr. Numbknutts and our Deacon, the Rev. Iknowmorethanyoupoorslobsinthepews, and we wish you a quiet liturgy with quiet organ music because, well, God knows, I've got a headache jut like you have - maybe worse."
Lord, you were sent to call sinner.