Saturday, April 30, 2011
Low Sunday Thoughts...
The name "Low Sunday" is sometimes said to derive from its relative unimportance compared to the solemnities of Easter Day, but it is possible that "low" is a corruption of the Latin word Laudes, the first word of the Sequence of the day: "Laudes Salvatori voce modulemur supplici" (Let us sing praises to the Savior with humble voice).
Low Sunday refers to the let down relative to the special festivities of Easter and the return to the more ordinary ritual of Sundays in general. This is, of course, highlighted by the fact that attendance is also much lower. Easter having been one of the traditional obligatory times for confession and communion, the crowd that once packed the churches for the holy day are now absent and attendance generally returns to its ordinary and routine level of participation of the faithful.
Some would suggest it is low because of the persistent doubting of Thomas who refused the testimony of the rest of the apostles, who was absent when they were present for Jesus' appearance, and who insisted that he must have proof if Jesus. Surely old doubting Thomas, the regular Gospel lesson for the day, has rightly earned his nickname and his refusal to believe marks a low point among the normally high points in the Gospels for the rest of the season.
In any case, we are almost there! Perhaps all of them contribute to the sense of "low" Sunday. I have come to see Thomas less in terms of his doubting and more in terms of the problem with his doubts -- he ran from them instead letting them push him into the presence of our Lord (and of His Word and Sacraments and the company of the faithful) where doubts may be answered. It seems that the same uniformly happens today. People with doubts and fears about their faith run away from -- rather than to -- Jesus and His Church. Maybe we could restore the luster and bump up the attendance if we made this the day for all people with doubts and fears to come -- perhaps it might even surpass the Holy Day itself in sheer numbers?!
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I always just figured it was "low attendance" Sunday, because all your every other week folk and all your once-a-monthers just were at Church on Sunday so they tend to blow off Church at the same time -- hence, low attendance.
Quasimodo can ring the bells tomorrow!
We used to refer to the first sunday after Christmas and after Easter as 'seminarian Sunday." Because those were the Sundays that the weary field word/vicarage supervisors would let the seminary students preach. (Perhaps they did so knowing the attendance would be low and therefore any damage done by the embryonic pastor minimized)
Whether we care to admit our own doubting or not, the end of Mark 9:24, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!", says it all about us. My prayers are that we restore the luster of full blast worship to each and every Lutheran Mass. To do anything less is ... simply less.
Interestingly, the German cantionales list Laudes salvatori voce for Easter Day only. Easter Mon. and Tues. had their own sequences also. Victimae paschali didn't start until Easter Wed. I think Sarum is the same.
In the Catholic Church that "Low" Sunday is now called Divine Mercy Sunday. The Church established that feast by a request of Jesus to have a Feast of Mercy on the Sunday after Easter. This helps us to focus on celebrating Easter for a full eight days. Pope John Paul II established that feast in the year 2000 and then by God's Providence, died on the feast.
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