An Album Review, Fiddlebacks, and the Hour of Our Visitation | Palm Sunday 2019

I came across a review of Harrison Lemke’s album “Thy Tender Care” written by Marc Barnes (of Bad-Catholic fame), and I want to read part of it to you.

Most of Harrison Lemke’s songs describe him standing at a window, looking out at crummy weather, until he is quite sure that God loves him. In the Bible, weather signifies God’s presence to his Creation, and for good reason: Wind and rain and snow are obvious reminders of the fact that you were born screaming into a cosmos that you did not create: one that impinges on you, sweeps you up, and freezes your snot, regardless of your career path or postmodern attempts at deconstructing the world to suit your deeply-felt sense of self. Many Christian nihilists (they sometimes call themselves “retirees”) move to Florida in an attempt to avoid confronting the givenness of Creation, of which weather is a sacramental sign. They say things like “I couldn’t take the winters”, buy condos and salmon-colored shirts, and settle into the Edenic temperate zone — that “ever-spring” which fascinated the Protestants of the seventeenth century as the unchanging climate proper to the unfallen Adam and Eve. That they are then hit with hurricanes seems poetically just — a kind of overdue library fine reminding them that, after all, this world is not our arrangement, it is a gift of God.
The reason human beings talk about the weather is because they want to talk about God, and God is most obviously present in the absurd givenness of the wind and the thunder which exceeds what we would have made ourselves. The mystery that we are, and we are here, and that all of this is happening, and that we really have nothing to do with the fact — it’s always worthy of comment. “Nice day we’re having” is an acceptable way of saying, “Neighbor, you and I exist under the weight of the same gift which we could not possibly have imagined for ourselves but can only contemplate as that which advents, arrives from without.”
But we are apt to honor only the worst weather as a sign of God’s presence. After all, he sends forth his lightnings and he hurls down hailstones like crumbs, the Bible says in some place psalmish. But this is a latent polytheism, in which God becomes the god of the big stuff, while the banal, the repetitive, and the mediocre become the provenance of another god who goes by the name Okay and Decent: a little glory be to Okay God who doth send forth the light drizzle and the slightly-increased humidity and from his storehouses produces the overcast mid-afternoon. God denied this dualism when he told Elijah that he was not in the hurricane, but in the gentle breeze.

He’s one of my favorite writers, and it’s not hard to see why.

How many of us had a conversation today about the weather? How many of us opened up the blinds this morning and heaved a heavy sigh?

How many of us looked up as we drove down Raynor Avenue this morning before the snow started to melt, and thought,
“that’s beautiful”? I didn’t. I was too busy, too upset, too much in a hurry.

Just prior to Jesus’ final entrance into Jerusalem, he stands on a hill outside the city called the Mount of Olives, a vantage point from which Jesus would have been able to see the whole world of Jerusalem. In Matthew’s Gospel, this is the time when Jesus looks at Jerusalem and weeps bitterly. Jerusalem, Jerusalem! City of our salvation! Chosen city, daughter of God!

He speaks a word of condemnation: You, Jerusalem, have missed the hour of your visitation. Everything about your faith and life speak of me, and your fathers and prophets have waited for me; the kingdom for which you’ve been longing is here now, and you missed it. Instead of accepting the Word, you’re about to crucify the Word. You’ve missed the hour of your visitation.

But Jesus did what he came to do. He came to fulfill the law and to offer himself as a lamb of sacrifice. Now, the blood of the rams and oxen and sheep and goats would no longer be the means by which the covenant was sealed. The covenant would no longer be sealed in the blood of something fallible and dirty. Finally, the spotless lamb, the truly spotless lamb, would be offered on the altar of sacrifice.

Take this all of you and drink from it, this is the cup of NEW and ETERNAL covenant. The covenant that cannot be broken now; death is conquered and sin is forgiven….end of story.

This Holy Week has been challenging me because I don’t feel as close to the Lord as I once was, as I was in the seminary when all I had to do was study and pray. I’m distracted and pulled in directions that I’ve never experience before. I know from the confessional that many of you are feeling this way, as well.

Are we missing the hour of our visitation? No! The covenant is new and eternal, so we can always go back to him and to it. But do we see God only in the major things? Have we noticed his work among us? The natural disasters, the terrorism, the shootings; the disease and the death.

Do we see him in the snow on Raynor Avenue? Is he present in our little debates?

Today I’m wearing a vestment called a “fiddleback”. Some people will say that these went out of style after Vatican II, and that I’m just a young, out of touch, conservative priest who is missing the needs of his people. If we’re that concerned about what Father is wearing at Mass, it’s not surprise that some among us have missed the hour of the visitation.

Whether you’re 80 or 90 or 2: Holy Week is the same now as it was then; it looks different, but it’s the same. It’s the same Jesus who comes from the same Father who carries out the same mission, which is the salvation of his people and the bringing forth of the Kingdom of God.

It’s the same mission that Father Scanlan, Monsignor Hoover, Father O’Keefe, Bishop Blanchette and Imesch and Sartain; Bishop McNamara would have worn this very vestment while they celebrated these same mysterious in this place.

Holy Week gives us the chance to slow down, to stop, and to come back to a beginning. Back to a place in our lives where the snow on Raynor Avenue makes a lot of difference; where the beauty of the twinkle in the eye of our lover makes a lot of difference; where the quiet, mid-afternoon breeze makes a lot of difference; where the pink in the sky at sunset, or when you come into this cathedral in July at 6:30pm and the light shoots perfectly through the West rose window and illuminates nothing but the crucifix on the East wall, makes a lot of difference.

God is in the details, in the little things.

In what ways are we missing him? In what ways are we missing the hour of our visitation? Make it a point as you receive the Eucharist today and during this Holy Week to identify and root out the things that blind and distract us and cause of us to miss the hour of our visitation.

Come back to the place where you recognize him, not only in the major events of life, but also in the simplicity and beauty of putting both feet on the ground as you get up every morning.

A reminder that no Catholic should be totally absent from the liturgy of the Holy Triduum. Come as much as you can.

During the Easter Vigil, when the whole cathedral is dark except for the light which comes from the Easter Candle, we are reminded of Christ who is the tiniest light in a vast darkness, and that the tiniest light will become the brightest morning.

Let’s not miss the hour of our visitation.


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