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March 28, 2009
On Good Friday, the Chaconne from Bach's Second Violin Partita, only on a viola. And Bach's O Sacred head, sore wounded, of course, but it will bookend the service with a newer setting by David Hurd -- it took guts to write a new setting for that one, and it's a beautiful setting indeed.

And the Stations of the Cross -- we are hoping that the mysterious walled garden across the street, where Machiavelli and his friends used to hang out, can be our Gethsemane, and Anne is checking with the caribinieri to see if Jesus can be arrested on the Via Della Scala, where they have their training academy. Maybe he can be judged in front of the Bargello, where the corpses of the executed used to hang for weeks after their executions, to encourage the Florentines in good behavior.

And maybe Simon of Cyrene can receive the cross upon his kindly shoulders in front of the Misericordia, the emergency medical service in Italy, which from the beginning has been offered free of charge -- they used to cover their faces with black hoods when they went out to get an injured person, so as not to ruin a good deed by being recognized doing it.

Where should Jesus be crucified? On Piazza della Signoria, where Savonarola was burned at the stake? Or perhaps we should reconsider too close an identification of the bitter monk with his infinitely-more-patient Lord?

The possibilities are endless.

And then there is the bus trip on Holy Saturday to San Vivaldo, not far from here: a 14th century theme park, as it were: a string of little shrines, each one devoted to a step along the way of the cross. It enabled pilgrims who couldn't make it all the way to Jersualem to walk the Via Dolorosa closer to home. All the stations of the cross in all the world's churches are descendents of this idea.

In fact, all liturgy is just that: the recapturing of something that once happened, bringing it alive again and amplifying its meaning in the present moment, where we are now. The endless debate about "what's really happening" in a sacrament is fruitless, by and large: they are not rational occurrences, and they cannot be reduced to reasonable explanation. It is one of the saddest parts of being rational beings, this sterile insistence of ours that everything make sense, our grumpy suspicion of mystery. It cuts us off at the knees. Human beings are more than brains with legs. We are hearts, too. Many things can reach us, through many doors other than the door of our understanding. We owe it to ourselves to open all the doors, and throw open a few windows, too, while we're at it.

Want to see the shrines at San Vivaldo? Please be patient and kind: the person who wrote the English guide was writing in a language not his own.
David Hurd's remarkable setting of O sacred head can be found in Lift Every Voice and Sing II,p.36. LEVAS is available from Church Publishing, or on
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