Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Reading the Passion. . .

The reading of the Passion of Christ from the Synoptic Gospels is traditionally done Monday through Wednesday at Compline and then, from John, on Good Friday.  Sadly the numbers of folks who come out for these earlier services in Holy Week is small but the witness is important.  The people of the parish need to know that people are gathering for and hearing the Passion of Our Lord.  It is the kind of text from which you benefit the more you read or hear it read.  I am convinced of this.

Although it is not written in stone, I caution against a dramatic reading of the Passion.  In fact, I think the idea that the Passion and Death of Jesus needs some help or drama to make it more “interesting” or "appealing" for the faithful an offensive idea.  We do not need to pump up what God has written for our edification and the Gospel is not made more relevant or exciting by somehow acting it out in words and emotion.  The power of the story IS the story.  The Passion does not need to be acted out or performed but read well, a practiced reading both deliberate and solemn.  This is God's most profound revelation and we would do well not to overshadow what is said by how we say it.

Christ’s faithful receives the Word of God aurally, remembering the promise therein that faith comes by hearing.  The proper stance and pose of the faithful at the reading of the Passion is one of listening to the Word of God with the reverence and with repentance in the heart.  And whether or not the assembly is seated, they should stand from the part of the Passion in which Jesus is crucified and remain standing through the end of the text.

And if people are ‘following along’ with the text printed in booklets, they are not listening but are neither reading nor listening.  They are, rather, conjoining the disadvantages of both activities without any of their benefits.  So, if I had my druthers, they would sit and only listen.  That does not even mention how distracting it is to hear pages turn while the attention of the people is to upon Christ who has entered into His suffering and soon His death for us and our salvation.  As the hymn writer reminds us -- is it too much for us to listen but would we rather simply rush by and be ignored just as we ignore the greater consequences  of this Gospel story>

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