The Armchair Liturgist: Cuing Passion Responses

PrayTell is discussing the theoretical role for the assembly in the Passion narratives of Palm Sunday and Good Friday. That’s explored territory on this blog. Liam offered a significant contribution, though:

What happens when the assembly is given a “part” in the “script” is that it spends more of its time waiting for its “cues” than immersing in the Gospel. Even putting aside the issue of liceity, as a substantive matter it’s very dubious.

In many places, it’s also traditional, going back more than forty years. I remember objecting to having the words, “Crucify him!” put into my mouth.

I find it better to use refrains at key moments. This year we are using “Jesus, Jesus, truly the Son of God” as an echo of the centurion’s acclamation after the death of the Lord. By having the musical interludes, we avoid the frowny-faced accusations of illiceity. To a degree.

How would you cue the assembly to either spoken or sung interludes? Anybody really sticking up for “Crucify him!”?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Holy Week, The Armchair Liturgist, Todd's music. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Cuing Passion Responses

  1. Liam says:

    Were (note the subjunctive mood) in such a chair: no spoken or sung interludes. (Silent pauses are good.). They happen to be forbidden, but putting that aside to address the substance, my sense of this has changed over time. The Passion narratives offer an immersive opportunity to encounter the Word in a way we never get in any other liturgies of the year. (The iterative readings of the Easter Vigil or, say, a service of lessons and carols, do not have the same quality. Perhaps the idea to interrupt the Passion is subconsciously ruddered by the experience of those ritual patterns?)

    What is interesting is that, in each and every Gospel, the feel of the Passion narrative is distinct from the rest of the respective Gospel. Once you arrive there, there’s a drive that holds and keeps your attention and focus – if you let it. That feel is weakened, even lost, rather than reinforced, by interludes.

    Don’t deprive the people of the opportunity to go deep and long.

    • Liam says:

      PS: Some follow-on questions about the practice to consider: What are the assumptions underlying the practice of interludes during the Passion? How true/valid are they? How do really tell? What values might they be in tension with that we are not paying attention to?

      For example, I’ve certainly assumptions involving tedium brought forth in discussion. There are different types of tedium – what kinds are we concerned about? How deeply and widely are the tediums actually felt in this context? Does the practice of interludes really resolve the issue of tedium? How much? Or is is more designed to help us (ministers) feel like we’ve addressed it?

      Ditto for “participation”.

      Ditto for “putting ourselves in the Gospel”.

      Another explanation I’ve encountered: It’s what we’ve done for years – now there’s a ritual expectation. I certainly get that the readers and, if interludes are musical, musicians develop an expectation because they probably rehearse the ritual rather than merely encountering it once or twice a year. Of how many congregants is there much of a ritual expectation of an interlude?

  2. Todd says:

    I suppose I would treat any “never” with a degree of skepticism. Speaking for myself, I view optimal liturgy as a dialogue. Long readings, homilies, and the Eucharistic Prayer all present–to me, admittedly–serious challenges to dialogue. God’s dialogue to us in the spiritual life is generally short these days. Poorly proclaimed readings, weak homilies, and poor translations of Eucharistic Prayers I might even suggest are interruptions to good liturgy. It does go deeper than participation or placing oneself in the narrative.

    Speaking for the Passion narrative, does it invite introspection? And if it does, is a human and religious and spiritual response to our thoughtfulness appropriate? Often, but not always, it is.

    • Liam says:

      I am primarily coming at this from questions.

      Are those interludes that response? Or a minister’s idea of one? And are they necessarily any better than what they break up? Better in what way(s)? Also, why is dialogue the optimal dimension? And might something that’s formally dialogical not be dialogical substantively, and vice versa? What span of time is the proper measure of dialogical vs non-dialogical episodes in this context?

      • Todd says:

        I think the questions are all good ones. I think dialogue is the essence of the relationship between God and people: call & response, nudge & resistance, insistence and acceptance–however it manifests for both individuals and a community.

        Long narratives run the risk of a third party interrupting that dialogue: a homilist, a choir, a set of readers. Not always, but usually, I think good liturgy mirrors good relationships. Watching, or even being moved by a dialogue between lectors emphasizes the classroom or clerical approach to faith. Go then, and do what I do, rather than watch me.

        We can say that Pope Francis washing the feet of prisoners, women and men, Christians and non-believers is a “good lesson,” but where is the evidence anyone associated with that lesson has learned it, and more, is doing it?

        That said, I would welcome those questions in my own community. Instead of the “default” Jesus Remember Me I inherited, I thought an explicit acclamation of faith a better response/interlude. But if I were in a parish that read those dialogues out of a missalette, it might be one of the first things to get examined as we prepared Holy Week. Reading a play is not a dialogue.

      • Liam says:

        But also in relationships, we behold. There’s an American cultural bias that valorizes “human doings”, the sense that if we’re not “doing” something, we’re absent.

        Consider Jesus’ mother, the model disciple, during the events of the Passion narrative. I understand that just because the Gospels don’t give her an explicit voice, it doesn’t mean she didn’t use her voice. That acknowledgement notwithstanding, when your son is held by the soldiers of a local crowned Don Corleone with less scruples than Don Corleone, and then by his superpower patron empire’s terror force, she may well have been left beholding. Jesus and Mary had different Ways of The Cross: Jesus had the terror of certainty, and Mary the terror of uncertainty. AMericans, culturally, hate encountering things that bring us to the thresshold of existential helplessness: we rush to fill it with busy-ness and melodrama. I’d suggest that it might be a value to not deprive people a chance to be there, simply. HOw can we get out of the way to let that happen?

  3. Joyce Donahue says:

    I have experienced the Passion both ways – plus, acted out (which is the worst – our youth group leaders saw it in another parish and we were stuck with it for years.) I have to say, that having a part keeps me focused and allows me to feel like I am part of what is happening. Call that American – but the culture of involvement in American parishes makes it feel nature. Then, there is this. Even when we think our practices and structures are safe and that all know their role, we can never control or tame Christ. Watch this short film about the experience of the participatory Passion:

  4. charlesincenca says:

    I argue strenuously against the recited Passion precisely because of the pesky embolisms of the Turbae (congregational portions) inserted into the narrative, number one. Number two, the likelihood of preparation for a coherent set of “actors” reciting the Christus, Narrator and Voice is more often few and far between.
    The three person chanted version suffices for a number of reasons, some of which Liam outlined.
    I would report of versions a former pastor commissioned me to compose that were achingly successful, but, ahem, not very licit about fifteen years ago.

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