If you ever get a chance, try to locate a recording of Krysztow Penderecki’s “St. Luke Passion.” Penderecki is/was a very modern composer (I’m not sure if he’s still alive), so this particular Passion is a chaos of some of the most god-awful sounds human voices can make. But I recommend it because of the very, very last chord of the piece, when three four-part choirs come together for the final “GLORIA!” — a masterpiece of harmony, when you suddenly realize that the piece had to be chaotic, because the Crucifixion was a triumph of chaos — but God’s perfect harmony is still more triumphant. What genius.
Yesterday, as I’m sure we all know, was the Feast of the Holy Cross. In typing up the material for this Sunday, I was struck by this Ode from Canticle Nine of the Canon: Let all the trees of the forest dance and sing, as they behold their fellow tree, the Cross, today receiving veneration: for Christ, as holy David prophesied, hath exalted it on high. Some years ago, I belonged to an Orthodox list, now sadly defunct, on which we encouraged one another to write poetry about specific events. This was my offering for September 14, the Elevation of the Cross:
To Be the Tree
“Cursed is he who hangs,” they say,/ as though there were nothing worse./ But I tell you, to be the tree,/ on which hangs the One Who created me/ — now that’s a curse.
No matter to me He rose from the dead./ I hide myself for shame./ Those others with me, on whom others died,/ in terror and trembling also hide,/ for fear of the flame.
Three hundred years I lay in the earth/ before I felt it turning./ Now, in the light of day I stand,/ exposed to all by a woman’s hand,/ and await my burning.
But wait! What does St. Helena say?/ “Behold the life-giving Tree/ by which salvation came to man!”/ Even I, it seems, was part of God’s plan./ Salvation comes — even for me.
Let all the trees of the forest dance and sing, as they behold their fellow tree, the Cross, today receiving veneration….