February 21, 2013

Clever or Corny?

Well, there's a creative tension in which I have long and bemusedly dwelt. But this past weekend it also occurred to me as a question about something in particular with regard to liturgical planning.

Up until now in my religious life, I have never lived in a place where the liturgy runs like such a well-oiled machine. In most places, God bless them, I have experienced the liturgy as a functioning machine, though perhaps in need of some oil. Sometimes it's been a machine for which somebody seems to have lost the manual. Sometimes it's been a machine with missing parts, other times a machine into which someone has tried to fit some ill-fitting replacement part, either homemade or taken from some experimental prototype found among the pet projects of a deceased mad scientist. Sometimes it's even been a time machine.

Anyway, fun metaphor. But I digress.

As I say, the liturgy where I am now runs like the proverbial well-oiled machine. Ministries are assigned a month at a time. I can tell you up to a month in advance whether or not we will celebrate an optional memorial. I can tell you up to a week in advance which option we will take for the Memorial Acclamation.

Arriving for first Vespers of Sunday, each of us finds at his place in chapel a little half sheet of paper containing various indications for the liturgy of the week to come. As I recently learned from a book I received in the mail the other day, this is what was called in the olden days the directory.* It lists the names of the brothers charged with various ministries: hebdomadary, first and second acolyte, reader, server. (Though these have been previously indicated on a monthly calendar, sometimes unexpected absences and switches require the calling of audibles.) The little paper then lists each liturgical day, what is to be observed, who will be principal celebrant at the Mass, songs to be sung in place of the entrance and communion antiphons (sorry), the response to the responsorial psalm, and which Memorial Acclamation is to be said.

The paper always has a little 'clip-art' graphic corresponding to the Sunday gospel. Encountering the one for this past Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, I was a little perplexed at first.

O.k., so it's the temptations. That's for sure. I enjoy how the devil looks something like a grouchy priest vested for Mass. A subversive touch is always nice. But finding this image I was immediately confused and amused all at once. In the dim light of pre-Vespers meditation, what is obviously a crown that is being offered to Jesus looked more like a jack-o-lantern. And what about the money bags? (Note that they're dollars, real money, not euro or lire.) The bags are more or less the same shape as what I guess are rocks on the other side, so perhaps they're the stones being invited to become 'bread'? That would be groovy. Or maybe they're just a generic symbol of power.

Of course, however, my real question was about the dishes and the tower and the satellite. What's that all about? Now I don't know if this graphic is supposed to be a generic representation of the synoptic episode of the temptations or if it was designed to be particular to Luke, whom we are reading this year. But if the graphic is just for Luke, maybe the dishes, tower, and satellite refer to Jesus being made to see the kingdoms of the world in a 'single instant.' (Luke 4:5) So maybe the dishes, tower, and satellite are like Google Earth or GPS, seeing all the world at the speed of light. Clever, no? Or just corny?

In any case, it got me thinking about the gospel, so I guess it worked.

*The book is The Journal of Rev. Fidelis Steinhauer, O.F.M.CAP. 1819-1882, trans. Vernon Wagner, OFM Cap and Ronald Jansch, OFM Cap (Fond du Lac, WI: Action Printing, 2012)

1 comment:

Judy Kallmeyer said...

In his temptation, Satan used the visuals of the time, stones/bread, kingdoms/power, risky behavior, to attempt to lead the Lord astray. Perhaps the satellites and dishes represent the media of today which present us with so many images that could lead us astray, lead us into sin and away from the God Who loves us so. They present us with all kinds of products to make us look better, smell better, feel better and, in some cases, are very seductive. They present us with the riches of today, fancy cars, bigger and better (?) houses, boats. And they present us with images of power, big business both in itself and in programs which show the seemy side of the business world, or with "reality" shows which show the greed of some people and the means by which they overpower or trick others on the same search. These are some of the sources of temptation of today. May we follow Jesus in putting Satan in his place and living as the Father would have us live!