With the arrival of Holy Week, German seems to make an entrance into even the humblest Christian parishes. The melody of the traditional "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" is identified in hymnbooks as "Herzlich tut mich verlangen." Sitting through the Buxtehude adaptation for the postlude today at Palm Sunday services in my parish, I resolved to find time later this week to listen to the Bach St. Matthew Passion.
There was a lot of listening I was doing today in church. Meanwhile, the reading of the long Passion narrative started a slide show going in my head. From the hands of great artists and some not so great, I have images to match each of the Gospel stories telling how Jesus is arrested, tried and executed. The fourteen Stations of the Cross hanging on the walls of the church are still one more set of artists' renditions of the final twenty-four hours of the life of Jesus.
How many other ways could there be to see those scenes? How many other ways could there be to tell that story?
I realized today that there will be artists still at work for decades and centuries to come -- some very talented artists and many less so -- all with the aim of helping people picture what happened in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.
Why picture it, though? What purpose did it serve today to rehearse in my mind's eye what exactly may have happened to Jesus? Why attempt to stay in imagination with the dying of one man when the dying of countless others happens day in and day out without my least notice?
I say "attempt to stay in imagination" because today I did not succeed. I did not stay in imagination with Jesus. Questions from my own life arose again and again, and I failed to reflect on the questions that may have occurred to Jesus carrying a cross to Calvary. I failed to imagine the questions that occurred to bystanders witnessing those Jerusalem events first hand.
Who has time for this?
Or who has the heart for it?
For that matter, who has time for his own life sometimes? Who has the heart for it?
And that is the question, is it not?
If music, however, can trick us into it, if stories can trick us into it, if artists' imaginings can trick us into it, who would not consider himself lucky? Who would not consider himself lucky to have the questions of his own life there before him on a Sunday morning?