Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shield the joyous

I'm not really back, folks: we're into the new place but surrounded by boxes, I've suddenly been hit with Total Pregnancy Exhaustion plus back pain that would make you think that I actually did any heavy lifting this weekend (don't worry, all I did was drive the van), and it's the first week of classes. But I wanted to post something.

I've been thinking lately about the relationship between Christian and Jewish liturgy, since we sing a Compline service weekly at a Lutheran church in town, as a way of getting our music fix. Like many church musicians, we are kind of liturgy junkies; even though we are Jews, we think seriously about what we hear from the Lutherans as well, about how and why it's different, about how those differences are explained by the quirks of history, and about what we might share despite our differences. We've been warmly welcomed by the Lutheran congregation for which we sing - we're not really members of the congregation, but as one of the congregants said, "You're part of the ohana" [Ohana is Hawaiian for family.], and that feels about right: we have great affection and respect for this community (they are champions at putting their money where their mouth is - always giving to local and national charities - they really take seriously that Christian tradition of giving to those in need). That said, we don't feel that our presence in the Compline choir has had much impact on the Lutherans in terms of their understanding our perspective on the two traditions, and that's something we wish were a little different, although it's hard to know what to do about it without being objectionable. We've invited a couple of choir members to sing with us at our synagogue on Shabbat Shirah (the "Shabbat of Song") later this month, and perhaps that will be a way to open a door.

Meanwhile, the real point of this posting was that, for last weekend's Compline, we had one of my favorite prayers from that service. It's from the order for Compline in the Book of Common Prayer, which is the source for the service we sing each week. I finally looked it up and found out it was written by the awesomely cranky St. Augustine, although we clearly have some Anglican cleric to thank for the lyrical translation. I know that pregnancy hormones are making me even more sentimental than usual, but this prayer makes me a little weepy every time it comes around:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

Me, I mentally edit out the "Lord Christ," and then just say "Amen."

No comments: