Saturday, February 09, 2008

Transcendence, Darkness, Self-Indulgence

I visit a number of blogs on a regular (if not daily) basis, and came across a post by Melissa with a You Tube video of Jeff Buckley singing "Hallelujah." As a result, I researched the song; original words by Leonard Cohen (changed slightly by everyone else who's ever recorded it).

I listened to it about a million times... all the variations I could find on You Tube. The most haunting was a version by K. D. Lang. Jeff Buckley got my vote as the closest runner-up for most moving rendition.

Music can (and will) open me to the transcendent. I'd forgotten that somehow in the busy-ness of being quiet.

We keep a good deal of silence in our house most of the time anyway, but during Lent it intensifies. This silence is something I had to learn to love, but now take for granted. I put away the few CDs I brought to the community; they became distracting. But having wallowed in this particular song yesterday, I realize how much I've missed by eliminating this particular path to transcendence.

The other interesting piece of all this is we give up Alleluias for Lent. It's a liturgical practice of the church, not just our community. During Lent, the words of the mass: "Alleluia, Christ our passover has been sacrificed for us..." begin simply with "Christ our passover..." It gives a starkness and clarity to the worship. It also requires us to actually pay attention to what we're saying. (So easy to go on autopilot when the words are familiar.) So... having given up Alleluias, why was I so compelled to immerse myself in a song that has thirty-four Hallelujahs?

One easy answer: This song speaks to the brokenness of all our attempts to relate to God.

Lent, even though we're essentially still in the first few days, is a time for examining darkness from all the angles. It's so seductive to believe that we have it made simply because we understand God through the lens of Jesus Christ. No more need to ask questions, to grapple with injustice, to come to terms with what we've done (and keep doing) to His creation.

In my Lenten Meditation book there's a Lenten Action suggestion for each day. Yesterday's said to give up "just one self-indulgence for the day". Not such a bad idea, to ease into it. (You have to start somewhere.) But self-indulgence comes in many shapes and sizes. What if believing we're one of the 99 good sheep is a self-indulgence? What if... the cold and broken hallelujahs are actually the only ones that matter to God?


Melissa said...

Ms. Lang really nails it. I think sometimes the cold & broken hallelujahs matter most. Not always, but sometimes. The easy bits of life are the ones we forget... the tough ones are what gets us through. The cold & broken make it possible for the warm & whole.

Jill said...

I just wanted to drop a comment to let you know how much I value your blog and I hope you do continue with the practice. I've been reading your comments for more than a year and I always enjoy your reflections -- both on Church practice and on human behavior.