This is one of those years. Today is Valentine’s Day. It is also Ash Wednesday. This year Easter falls on April Fools Day. It is the sort of cosmic goof that Tom Robbins wrote about in Another Roadside Attraction. I never knew that the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter matched the time between Valentine’s Day and April Fool’s Day. There’s got to be some significance there, though I’m not sure what it is.
To add another layer, after reporting to training camp yesterday the Dodgers pitchers and catchers had their first workout today.
I’m not sure what it’s all about, Alfie, but maybe we can figure it out. Or maybe we don’t need to.
Some years I am ready for Lent. Other years I am not. This year I was not.
I missed the Last Sunday after Epiphany because I was without my hearing aid. I missed Ash Wednesday for the same reason and because Tasha was in serious need for a trip to the groomer and Terry was working.
I was, however, made very much aware of the season on the first Sunday of Lent. We did the Great Litany. Sigh. “From the Great Litany, Good Lord deliver us,” Father Phil in Morgan Hill once said.
We are now deep into Lent, and I’m just not there with it. It’s simply one of those years, I suppose.
Yesterday was the Feast of the Presentation, the story and song of Simeon found in Luke 2:25-35. The Latin version of the Song of Simeon is Nunc Dimittis, which I shared a couple of weeks back. This is my favorite version of the Song of Simeon in English, both because of the music and because of the message conveyed in the video. If you are stressed by the current political climate please listen and watch.
I’m not sure why the liturgical calendar has the presentation of Jesus in the temple on 2 February, well after the baptism on the First Sunday after the Epiphany. I don’t want to wait until then to hear the Song of Simeon. So here it is today.
George Dyson’s Nunc Dimittis in D, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
Lent already. We’re only a third of the way into February and it is Ash Wednesday. Easter is early this year: 27 March, so Ash Wednesday and Lent are early as well.
I have long thought of Lent as being a long, drawn-out season and Advent being a short, fast season. But I looked at the liturgical calendar a while back and I realized that there is only one more Sunday in Lent than there is in Advent. Sure doesn’t seem that way. I guess it’s the different nature of the two seasons.
So here we are. The journey begins.
I sometimes wonder about the lectionary selection for a given Sunday or holy day. What were those lectionary elves (to borrow a term I love from an Episcopal priest) thinking? Even more arcane is the church calendar. Why would the presentation of Jesus at the temple be on 2 February? After all it comes on the calendar after the Baptism of Jesus. But 2 February it is, and I wanted to observe it today because it contains, to me, one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.
The author of Luke tells us that Simeon “was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel,” and that “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” When he sees Jesus in the temple Simeon says:
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.
There are, of course, many beautiful musical evocations of this passage. Here is one of them, with an added message about the power of the Social Gospel.
Today I am ready to try, at least, to leave behind the cynical realism of W.H. Auden, and embrace the hopeful optimism of Howard Thurman.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.