Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

A quick note to wish you all a wonderful and blessed Easter season!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Person of Christ

I'm ready to write now.

I've not written in this space for nearly a year now...since my brother passed last June. In point of fact, other than my weekly podcasts, I've not posted much in any journal. I don't want to overdramatize it. I simply haven't felt I had much to say.

Now, though, I'm drawn back to this space to post a few thoughts about Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.

I read the book within days of its release; eager to see if she maintained the high standard she'd set with the previous volume and anxious to see how she'd deal with the life of a more mature Jesus.

The story is set in the months before the Biblical account of Jesus' first miracle. It begins during a rainless winter when the adult Jesus is haunted by dreams of a kinswoman whom he has come to love. He loves her individually and is deeply tempted by the possibility of raising a family. Rice manages to draw us into Jesus' desire without making it in the least salacious. He is very human with very human desires, yet always aware of the role (if not the specifics) that he must play in human affairs.

It is nearly impossible to discuss the book without spoiling the beautiful emotional resonances that result from coming to the events as Rice intended, so I'll keep my comments general.

Most impressively, Rice takes tiny snippets of scripture (such as the Magdalen's first appearance) and spins them into fully-realized scenes with complex characters who have gravity and reality. Nowhere is this more evident than in the voice of the central character.

He reacts to the veniality and hypocrisy of those around Him with love and patience, even when he is taunted with the title "Yeshua the sinless". He recognizes (and so do we also) that these people are well-intentioned in their own way and do not mean the harm they cause. He loves them even as He gently reproves and corrects.

It is this sense of the reality of Jesus which propels the book. As in the earlier volume in the series, we already know what's going to happen. So Rice has wisely created a character study. Most interestingly, the character we end up studying most closely is our own.

The people of Nazareth become mirrors for us and our own time; their prejudices are our prejudices. Their self-righteous evil is ours to own. Their misguided actions reflect so much of our time. Ultimately, it becomes a book about us and our own relationship with the person of Jesus.

Throughout the book -- I cannot emphasize this enough -- Jesus responds with patience and love. The voice she conjures the central figure in the New Testament stayed with me after I closed the book.

At last night's Liturgy of the Passion and Death of our Lord, during the passion reading, I heard in the text the foundations of the voice in the novel. The Savior who patiently answered the charges levelled by by Pilate was real for me in a new and different way. I could imagine how those scenes will read in the eventual novel and, in that imagining, gained a better sense of the terrible duty Jesus may have felt. The full humanity of the moment was very, very real to me.

This, then, is the wonder of Rice's writing. She has taken the Jesus that many people love in the abstract and given them (us?) a way to love him singularly and personally.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


My younger brother died a week ago today. Cathy and I and my parents had been taking turns keeping vigil by his hospital bed. We were at home when the call came and by the time we got to the hospital, he had passed.

Obviously it has been an emotional week and I'll need some time to process before I can write about it in any but documentary fashion.

For the curious, his obituary is here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Christ's Journey

I'll use this post to link to all of the audio segements for Christ's Journey.

Prologue -- Isaiah 9:6-7

The Annunciation -- Luke 1:26-56

The Nativity -- Luke 2:1-19

The Coming of the Magi -- Matthew 2:1-21

A Visit to the Temple -- Luke 2:40-52

Jesus' Baptism -- Mark 1:2-13

Jesus is Tempted -- Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus Calls Disciples -- Matthew 4:12-22

The Wedding at Cana -- John 2:1-12

The Beatitudes -- Matthew 4:23 - 5:12

Healing and Resurrection -- Luke 7:1 -15

Healing of a Withered Hand -- Mark 3:1-6

Nicodemus' Visit -- John 3:1-21

Jarius' Daughter -- Mark 5:22-43

The Samaritan Woman -- John 4:3-44

Anointed by a Woman -- Luke 7:36-50

Feeding the Multitude -- John 6:1-15

Jesus Walks on Water -- Matthew 14:22-36

Jesus Visits Mary and Martha -- Luke 10:38-42

A Woman Taken In Adultery -- John 8:1 -11

NOTE (7/6/07) -- I'm going to suspend this project for a while. At least for the next little while I'm going to re-prioritize my activities.

I'm going to keep my podcast (Short Cummings Audio) going because the creative work is an important and positive thing for me to do. I will get back to this project, I'm just not certain when.

If you'd like to contact me, please feel free to post a comment here or e-mail me at the address given on the left side of this screen.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tipping Point

As of this Easter I will have been a member of the Roman Catholic church for 22 years ... more than half my life. In other words, I've been a Catholic longer than not.

During last night's Vigil I reflected on those years; in part because this is the season when time folds in on itself for me and each Easter is all Easters.

Last weekend (Palm Sunday) at the 8:15 Mass I had the privilege of reading the Narrator's part in the Passion. To assist us, the Monsignor has prepared small folders with the passion printed in large, easy-to-read letters. The folder I was given this year had notes written in my hand on the inside page. At some point in the past, in the endless three-year cycle of readings, I'd used that folder before.

Was it from 2004 when I was two-thirds through my Graduate degree; when I struggled to keep up the end of my Arbitration class and graduation felt like it would never come?

Was it from 2001 when I hadn't yet begun my Mediation Certificate and the horros of Speptember 11th hadn't yet changed the world.

1998? Possible, although at that time I'm not sure I was a lector yet.

I wonder what the 'me' of that earlier reading would think of the 'me' of today.

This sense of compression, of being at the junction point in the infinity symbol of time, hits with full force during the Vigil. Although I've not attended the service every year, I've been to more than I've missed. Attending is a brief moment of connection with myself in each of the years before.

My first Vigil, St. Catherine of Sienna Newman Center in Salt Lake, was my Confirmation and First Communion. I didn't come to the Church in the usual way. I felt the desire to be part of the Community of Faith and had attended Mass regularly for a couple of years. When I decided to join two generous priests -- Frs. Bramble and McGreevey -- completed my Catechism and allowed me to be Confirmed even though I'd not gone through the formal RCIA. Cathy's parents were there and I remember being somewhat overwhelmed by it all.

To be honest, I probably understood less about the Faith than I should and yet I believed; deeply and completely. That was enough and the details came later as I grew.

Just after Evan was born I traveled to Nashville to present at a conference at Easter. My travel plans left the Vigil as my only option. A cab took me from my temporary quarters at the Opryland Hotel to a nearby parish. It was a windy night and during the Blessing of the New Fire a gust caught the cloth draped over the table and dipped it in the fire. Altar Servers and Deacons rushed to extinguish the unwanted flame. Once we were safely inside, the service proceeded as expected. That was the first Vigil I'd attended since my own and I remember thinking that mine hadn't seemed that long.

Once Cathy and I took up ministries -- Eucharistic Minister for her and Lector for me -- we were called upon to attend Vigils more often. Flash photo snapshots of various years present themselves in my mind; reading from Genesis about Abraham and Isaac, Exodus and the Crossing of the Red Sea; Isaiah promising food and drink; Paul explaining that we were buried with Christ in Baptism so that we could rise with Him. At most I'm assigned two of the readings, so I know that these memories cross multiple years.

Cathy and I served on the RCIA team one year, but that particular Vigil doesn't stand out to me now.

I remember reading at the Vigil the year that Ken was confirmed. He asked me to sponsor him. Various circumstances stretched his own Catechism into a two-year marathon. In some ways it was the inverse of my own; long where mine had been short, arduous where mine had been more simple. Yet Ken hung in there and I was proud to be his sponsor. He has remained faithful where others have fallen away. To date, he is the only person I have sponsored. The role of sponsor is not one I take lightly and I'd only take on another candidate after careful and prayerful consideration.

This Vigil also pointed to the future. It was Ian's last assigned Mass as an Altar Server. There's something bittersweet in the knowledge that he'll be moving on. We've applied for housing at the Newman Center for him and I pray that he gets in.

In two years we'll face the same circumstance with Evan.

Then we'll be older and empty-nesters and life will change. Grandkids? College graduations? It's hard to say what might be happening. Yet through it all there will be Easter and the Vigil and the Resurrection.

And, as always, time will fold in on itself for me.

May God Bless you and keep you in this joyous Easter Season!

Happy Easter!

The penitential season of Lent has passed and now we celebrate the Joy of Easter.

During Lent I managed to establish the habit of recording the project weekly ... a habit which I itend to continue through the coming months until I reach the end of the project. As each new segment is completed, I'll upload it here.

I hope this Blessed Day finds you well. Cathy and I will be spending the day with my Father and Brother (both of the boys have to work this weekend). Then we plan a quiet and restful afternoon at home.

God Bless You!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lenten Project -- Take Two

After fussing with the files for a while and playing with Cinescore, I'm not particularly satisfied with the final product I'm getting. I might feel a little happier with the Cinescore Wedding pack which includes some classical selections, but I'm afraid that the limited music available would make the segments repetetive.

So, for the nonce at least, I'm going with dry voice. I've gone back and re-edited all of the files without any special effects or music.

I don't expect to have it all recorded -- there are nearly 40 segments -- by the end of Lent. Instead, I intend to use this Lenten observation to start a new habit.

The first four segements are done and I'll link to them shortly.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday 2007

Not much to say, really, but didn't want to let the day pass without comment.

I will work on the project during Lent and see how far I can get.

Wishing you a good and fulfilling Lent.