The Annunciation on Capitol Hill

No, this is not a report on a political candidate announcing their intent to run for President. Rather, just a brief post this morning to share what a beautiful evening it was last night at Holy Comforter and St. Cyprian Parish on Capitol Hill. For those who have never visited, do make a point to drop in sometime, as it’s quite an interesting, vibrantly decorated building.

To commemorate THE Annunciation, i.e. when the Angel Gabriel was sent to that little village called Nazareth as described in the beginning of St. Luke’s Gospel, the parish celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form, featuring music by late 16th/early 17th century composer Hans Hassler.

Rather than do a play by play review, I thought I would share an audio file of the parish schola singing the “Sanctus”. Even without being at full strength last evening, they did a splendid job of bringing peace and a reflective mood to the celebration. Amazing that less than a year ago, they were singing Dan Schutte claptrap.

With a very good experience at Confession with Monsignor Pope beforehand, and dinner at a nearby tavern with some clergy friends afterward (thanks to the unknown individual who bought us dinner!) it was a wonderful Wednesday, and a good pause before heading into the intensity of Holy Week.

image

Window at Holy Comforter and St. Cyprian, Capitol Hill

The Hole Truth

I’ve always associated glazed donuts with Lent and Springtime. Not frosted donuts, which are a kids’ thing I continue to enjoy any season of the year. No, I mean just your standard donut, with the hole in the middle and plain icing slathered on top.

Now this may be because I grew up in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, where glazed donuts known as “fasnachts” remain a tradition for Fat Tuesday. Or it may because Mom used to buy boxes of pretzel-shaped glazed Entenmann’s donuts for us when we were kids. Or it may because I remember eating a glazed donut at church for breakfast, before my First Communion, being sick in the bathroom before Mass, and not wanting to tell anyone for fear I wouldn’t be allowed to receive.

This is the final week of Lent before Holy Week begins this coming Palm Sunday. Being home in PA to visit, recuperate from recent illness, and of course eat donuts, has given me a much-needed change of scenery to reflect on how this Lent has gone. On the whole, it’s been successful in some areas; less so in others. Fortunately, there is still a bit of time left to try to get things sorted out.

One of the most important things to do, of course, is to make sure to get to confession before Easter Sunday. Truthfully, I could probably stand to go to confession every day, unfortunately for me. I am very cognisant of my being a work in progress, and often a total zero when it comes to following Christ. Circumstances being what they are, and possessing neither private chaplain nor private chapel (more’s the pity), I must schedule a time to go just like everyone else.

In her precepts the Church actually mandates, in case you had forgotten, that Catholics receive Holy Communion once a year, preferably during the Easter season. She also mandates that Catholics go to confession at least once a year. It’s only logical, then, that since you should be receiving Communion during Easter, you should be confessed of and absolved from your sins before doing so. Otherwise, presenting yourself in your Easter best for Communion on Easter Sunday when you haven’t first gone to confession is a bit like being a glazed donut: all shiny and sweet, with no center.

So go check your parish or diocesan website, and look for the confession schedule. My parish of St. Stephen’s here in DC for example, offers confession every day except Sundays, and is participating in “The Light Is On For You” campaign, offering Wednesday evening confessions during Lent. Your parish may be participating as well, for this season of penitence and reconciliation.

Once Holy Week begins, it’s very easy to get caught up in preparations for Easter Sunday, whether you have little ones expecting a visit from a giant rodent, or you have to travel to Grandma’s out of state for the weekend, or you have ten cousins coming over for Easter dinner. Take the time then, to block off an hour to get to confession, and make that a priority this week, rather than leaving it to the last second. Donuts may be great treats, but nutritionally empty of value: you don’t want to leave a hole where your heart ought to be, when Easter Sunday arrives.

image

Seen And Unseen: Drones Reveal Architectural Splendor

One of the most intriguing technological developments of recent years for the commercial market has been the drone, or more specifically, the micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). These tiny, light, HD camera-wielding flying machines are used to make all sorts of fun videos such as this one. Drones have proven to be a huge hit with backyard air traffic controlers, pranksters, and aspiring action movie directors around the world.

Yet with all their modern, gee-whiz capabilities, these machines also have the power to make us pause and wonder at the achievements of those who came before us, particularly when it comes to the centuries of magnificent art and architecture sponsored by the Church. A recent post on ChurchPop.com brought together eleven astounding videos of Christian monuments around the world, including Mont Sant Michel in Brittany, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, among others. Each was filmed, in whole or in part, using a drone, thereby bringing the viewer never before seen footage of these places. All eleven of these Catholic structures showcase the continuity and yet at the same time diversity of design in the Church across nearly a millennia in this sampling.

Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about either Utrecht or Canterbury Cathedrals, which are featured in the post linked to above, I would point out a few facts. Both cathedrals were designed and built by Catholics, for use by Catholics, long before they were later… appropriated by others. They were not torn down as so many others were. Thus, whatever may have befallen them on the inside, these two churches remain largely Catholic works of art on the outside.

Regardless, it must be said that the possibilities raised by drone technology are potentially endless, when it comes to the renovation and preservation of sacred art and architecture. Imagine, a parish needing an assessment of a leaky belfry could fly up a drone to shoot some video for potential contractors. A cathedral seeking to determine what shape the ceiling frescoes are in could film closeups of the surface for art experts located hundreds of miles away, without ever erecting a scaffold. Art researchers could take a look at carved ceiling bosses located high inside an ancient monastery chapel halfway around the world from the comfort of their own office.

Getting back to the point, such opportunities are wonderful moments to ask others to take another look at the Church they think they know. It is hard to watch the drone video of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela for example, and not want to visit its many ornate stone spires. Who knows what thoughts or experiences may cross such a pilgrim’s path on the Camino?

Technology is certainly a means for us to imagine the future. Clearly it can also be a way for us to better understand the past. And in the sacred context, by revealing the hidden splendor of these places it can bring before our eyes imagery which corresponds to the vision of the Psalmist: “I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go up unto the House of the Lord.”

image