The Wednesday of Holy Week, at least at my church, features the celebration of Tenebrae, a deeply moving and ancient liturgy that combines the services of Matins and Lauds for the Triduum and anticipates them by one day. Tenebrae serves as a vigil for the Triduum. The beauty of the service is focused on the expression of two emotions that we moderns distinctly do not like to encounter: expectation and suffering.
The next time someone tells you that the Tea Party does not connive at a bit of racism, ask them about this photo of the President as a monkey that was emailed by a Repubican Party official and Tea Party leader in Orange County.
President Obama held his second Easter Prayer Breakfast this morning at the White House. Of course, we have not even gotten to Good Friday yet, but the timing of the breakfast was apparently unavoidable. Yesterday, a senior White House official told NCR that the breakfast was held on the Tuesday of Holy Week at the request of ministers who were otherwise engaged on Easter. For clergy, of course, Holy Week is a hellishly busy week! Still, it is good to remember that setting the date of Easter was cause for great controversy in the early Christian church as some followed the Roman practice of celebrating Easter on Sunday while other Eastern churches followed the Hebrew calendar and celebrated it on the 14th of Nisan, no matter what day of the week it fell on. So there is at least an Eastern precedent for celebrating Easter today.
I had not had a chance to check on Nate Silver's blog in a few days. As always, he offers a detailed and intelligent analysis of how the GOP's vote to turn Medicare into a coupon program may come back to haunt them.
On this sixth anniversay of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, it is well to recall the sense of dread with which many of us on the more progressive side of things greeted his election. And, who can forget George Weigel opining that "the 'progressive' project is over."
I would submit that this sense of dread has not been borne out by the pontificate itself and that the wisest thing said on the day of Benedict's election was the sage observation that "Ratzinger the cardinal will not necessarily be a true guide for Benedict the Pope."
Indeed, within a year, it was the conservatives who were gnashing their teeth. I wrote an article for Slate that recalled Father Richard John Neuhaus's expressions of disappointment at what Benedict had wrought. Since then, the conservatives have continued to be disappointed. Even when Benedict does something they like, such as issuing Summorum Pontificum, which permitted all priests to say the Traditional Latin Mass, that decision has not been accompanied by any promotion of the Traditional Latin Mass. For example, Pope Benedict himself has never presided over one of the traditionalist liturgies.
Traditionally, the Chrism Mass is said on the morning of Holy Thursday, the same day as the commemoration of the Last Supper, given its strong emphasis on the presbyterate. In Rome, the Chrism Mass is said at St. Peter’s in the morning and then the Pope goes to his cathedral (St. Peter’s is not a cathedral; it is a very large church), St. John Lateran, across town in the evening for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Here in Washington, we often use the National Shrine for large events such as priestly ordinations, but the Chrism Mass and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, these are reserved for the Cathedral.
According to an IRS study, the top 400 adjusted gross incomes in the nation, that is the super-super-rich, have seen their tax payments drop from 26 percent of their income in 1992 to 19 percent today.
So, the next time you hear some conservative bloviator complain about how we shouldn't even think of raising taxes on the super-rich, remember this: Your taxes and mine have not plummetted in the past two decades. Before they cut Medicare, why not make the rich pay what they owe, eliminate the loopholes that allow them to dodge taxes, and see if that doesn't go a long way towards closing the federal budget deficit!
Normally, the Anchoress provides thoughtful commentary on the issues of the day. I often find myself in disagreement with what she has to say, but she is not usually bonkers. But she has a post up in which she commends former Governor Sarah Palin for her "coherence" during a speech she gave in Wisconsin defending that state's Gov. Scott Walker. The Anchoress believes Palin evidences "wit, clarity and coherence." Watch the video and you be the judge.
I will say this. Palin certainly evidences sincerity, but she is sincere in the sense that she is the first to believe her own propaganda. When she stated that Gov. Walker "is not trying to hurt union members" she is simply lying. Aren't union members in a better position to assess what does and does not hurt tham than the man who is busting those unions?
If this is coherence, I am a Lutheran.
The resignation of Douglas Kmiec as ambassador to Malta is a thing to be regretted on several levels. It appears that Kmiec was not forced out but, instead, chose to leave his post if he was going to be hamstrung in his efforts to define his role as he sees fit and, critically, as the President apparently indicated he wanted him to fulfill that role.
Usually, my larger morning post focuses on politics or at least the estuary where politics and religion mingle. But, this is no usual week. This is Holy Week. And, so, I shall begin the next few days with religious reflections and make what I would consider more broadly cultural points, rather than strictly political ones.