Wheat that Springeth Green

April 5, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Back in the 1970s, I lived for a number of years at Grailville, the Grail’s national center and organic farm in southwest Ohio. There was much that I loved about being there, but what I loved most was the singing. We sang for everything, feasts, holidays, people’s birthdays. We sang Gregorian chant. We sang in three parts, under the leadership of fine choir directors–Lynn Malley, Fran Martin, and many others. But what we really sang for was Holy Week.

The Easter carol I learned to love more than other while I was at Grailville is an English one, “Love is Come Again.”At first, I loved it for the music. It uses a melody from a French medieval Christmas carol–I’m nuts about medieval music–and the harmony makes it even more gorgeous. Take a couple of minutes and listen to the YouTube recording, sung by a choir of gorgeous young people.

But as the years have passed, I’ve also come to love it because of the words:

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom hate had slain,
Thinking that never he would wake again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

I love these words because they highlight the connection between Christ , and therefore, between Christians–between human beings–and the earth itself. And as the situation of the earth becomes more and more perilous, isn’t this exactly what we need to hear? Orthodox types would probably argue that it only says that Jesus is like wheat that springs from the earth. But more and more, theologians are realizing that God’s connection with the earth, through the creation, and the incarnation, is much more intimate than that. God is one with the earth, as well as beyond it.

So when we sing this hymn we are reminded of that intimate connection–that integral ecology, as Pope Francis will soon argue in his encyclical–between God and us and the earth, one we must not violate or abuse if we want to have life. Imagine what it might have meant if, over the years, Christians–Catholic Christians in particular–had been singing about Christ the Wheat instead of Christ the King? How might our world be more whole?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Almost Easter!

March 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Well, its Thursday of Holy Week. Time for what we Catholics call “The Triduum” –three days of services during which we follow Jesus from his last supper, to the Garden of Gethsemane, through his passion and death, to his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It’s quite a journey.

For me, though, the journey got underway big time last weekend at the Palm Sunday Mass at my parish church, Our Lady of Refuge here in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. At that Mass we read for the first time during Holy Week the New Testament Passion story (this year, from St. Luke). Then, probably because the Passion takes longer to read than the usual Sunday Gospel, the pastor, Michael Perry, got up in the pulpit and instead of giving a sermon simply reread the epistle, Philippians 2.  There are times when I might have regretted such a  choice, but the passage from Philippians is, in my opinion, spectacular–a liturgical proclamation that’s at the heart of the Christian faith:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

a thing to be grasp,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him

and given him the name

that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Now I know there will be all sorts of objections to this text–it adulates suffering, there are many other religions so why should every knee bow to Jesus, it ignores women, etc. In the past I myself have offered these criticisms (and more) of other biblical and theological texts.

But I still want you to know, Philippians 2 moves me very deeply.

Perhaps my saying this will make more sense if I add that my first conscious encounter with Philippians 2 was singing the Gregorian setting of it–the “Christus Factus Est”–along with other Grail women when I lived at the Grail’s national center outside Cincinnati in the 1970s. I still close my eyes and sing it to myself from time to time, decades after Gregorian chant has pretty much died out in the Grail (and other places).

Perhaps  listening to a recording of  the “Christus Factus Est” will help you to understand why the text moves me as deeply it does–in a way that my talking about it cannot. (Had I found a recording by a group of women, you might understand the strength of my feelings even more.)

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