Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, April 02, 2007

Perfect Palm Sunday

I do not intend to turn this blog into a personal journal, but I want to report on my perfect Palm Sunday. Dick wanted to go to services at his church in Greenwich, so he did that, but I had my sights set on New York City. I attended the morning service at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, which was virtually flawless from my perspective (the Coverdale Psalms! "Ride on, ride on in majesty" to the old tune! Luis de Victoria Passion! "Ah, holy Jesus" as the conclusion! etc.!) At first I was worried because the congregation did not participate in the shout of "Crucify Him!" but I needn't have been; the rector, in a five-minute homily that said everything that needed to be said on this particular occasion, reminded us in very strong terms that we were part of the story, playing the parts of Judas, Pilate, and the bloodthirsty crowd. Hence our need for the Lord's death, not for someone else, but for us.

Then I went (and this is the real reason for this blog entry) to see Pan's Labyrinth. I urgently recommend it to everyone. (Everyone over 18, that is-- even older teenagers, if they are at all sensitive, will be upset by the graphic violence.) It is a magnificent combination of two parallel stories, one set in the "real," brutal world of fascist Spain, the other in the imagination of an 11-year-old girl. The ending startled me; it had distinctly Christian implications. The director did not intend this, I suspect; he had earlier turned down the opportunity to direct the Narnia movie because, he said, he did not want to do the resurrection of the lion. Nevertheless, if you go, you will see what I mean. For a Christian, it is unmistakable. And, ironically, the penultimate transfiguration scene has a distinct flavor of C. S. Lewis' fantasy tales. (Just one thing, and this is the point of Palm Sunday: the sacrificial death of Christ was not for the innocent, but for the guilty.)

To finish the day, I went for the first time to the "Bach Vespers" at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 68th and Central Park West. In the context of a truly worshipful service with prayers, Bible readings and homily, Cantata 131, Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir.... ("Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord") was performed with ineffable simplicity and artistry. How have I missed this wonderful opportunity all these years? If you live in the city, here is the link: