Monday, March 25, 2013

A Noble And Holy Passion

"Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

 Recently I attended a concert performed by the Santa Rosa Symphony, under the direction of Bruno Ferrandis. The final piece was the powerful Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Opus 74: the Pathétique. Interestingly, The Russian title of the symphony, Patetičeskaja, means "passionate" or "emotional", not "arousing pity", but it is a word reflective of a touch of concurrent suffering. The Finale: Adagio lamentoso is a slow movement, bleak, stressful and anguished, in which Tchaikovsky lays his soul bare as he meditates on death. At the end the music slowly fades away into a silence where a pin drop might be heard. It was just at this point in the concert which I attended, during perhaps the last six or eight measures, that the tinkling sound of someone's cell phone was heard. The whole mood in the hall was destroyed! We watched Maestro Ferrandis nearly collapse. The expression on his face wasn't really anger, though I'm sure he felt that, but much more of a profound, weary sadness. He hurried off the stage with a forlorn demeanor, which didn't even disappear as he and the orchestra took a second bow, by which the time the audience had risen in a standing ovation to show its empathetic support. 

What I realized in that experience was the reality of Maestro Ferrandis' deep passion for the music to which he's devoted his life. It's apparent in every one of his performances, but more so on this occasion. Passion. Emotion. Not arousing pity, but rather "a touch of concurrent suffering" with another: certainly with each member of his orchestra and with the members of the audience. Who can know what he may have felt towards the person responsible for the disturbance? 

It seems to me that this is similar to the passion of Mary of Bethany as she tends to the anointing of Jesus in anticipation of his suffering and death, a deeply emotional response to what lay ahead, a sense of solidarity because of Jesus' evident opposition and harassment by the Pharisees and legal experts of the Law. Her gesture happens in the context of her sister, Martha, and her brother, Lazarus, having him to dinner, possibly to show their extreme appreciation for Jesus having restored Lazarus to life. We know from the Scriptures of the longstanding love and friendship among them, and how perfectly Jesus felt "at home" with them and they with him. In John 11:17-46, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus to life, each of the main figures displays a deep pathétique character: Martha and Mary, in each of their opening words to Jesus, "Lord, if you had only been here, my brother would not have died."; and Jesus in his response. "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he shuddered, moved with the deepest emotions...Jesus began to cry..." Their bonds were deep and enduring.

In a curious, negative sort of way, perhaps Judas Iscariot's hard response to Mary's action betrays a similar passion, though in an opposite, selfish direction. Fr. Pius Parsch, commenting on this passage in his Year of Grace (Vol. 2, p. 303) says, "In everyone's heart, in my own too, there dwell two souls: a Judas-soul and a Mary-soul. The former is the cause of Jesus' suffering, it is always ready to apostatize, always ready to give the traitor's kiss...Your Mary-soul is a source of comfort to Christ in His sufferings."

This Holy Week highlights the noble and holy passion of God in coming among us in Jesus, to be one of us, to experience first-hand what it means to be a human being. Jesus the Christ embodies this noble and holy passion whose clear agenda is "that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) The practical implication of all this for you and me is to open ourselves to and nurture in ourselves a similar noble and holy passion to our sisters and brothers, and to God, a touch of concurrent bearing with, of being in solidarity with the suffering as well as the joy of others.

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