Friday, April 03, 2009

Of Braziers and Buffets

In the Army, every day is Sunday.

So, as I'm going about the battlespace, it's already Palm Sunday, and we've been observing the blessing of the palms, and the proclamation of the Passion of Our Lord.

At one outpost I was just reminded of another Lent, quite a while ago now, shortly after I was first ordained. The reminder had to do with the pronunciation of words, though different words were involved.

I had heard older Jesuits discussing the liturgical equivalent of 'fashion nightmares', especially as it involved the participation of others in the liturgy. It's hard enough for me to watch myself and what I'm doing and saying, Lord knows! But introduce other people into the mix -- especially if they've been thrown into the action due to happenstance or other unforeseen necessity -- and things can get quite amusing. Or frustrating.

I've seen presiders get really, really annoyed when things 'go wrong' -- but I usually just try to sit back and enjoy the ride. I, for one, am convinced God has a weird and robust sense of humor (after all, look at who's in Iraq, blogging!), and certainly gets a good giggle if not a full-figured belly laugh over what transpires during well-meaning (and even well-prepared) but human worship.

So there I was celebrating Mass on the Second Sunday of Lent, Cycle C, years ago now, and *it* happened. As I mentioned, I'd heard Jesuits talking about *it*, among other things, but I believed they were stretching the truth for comedic effect.

But I was wrong and they were right.

The first reading, for that Second Sunday of Lent, Cylce C (we're in Cycle B this year, so Cycle C is next year and we're back to Cycle A the following year, but I digress), was from Genesis 15 (verses 5-12, 17-18, to be exact). The old New American Bible translation which was being read spoke of "a smoking brazier and a flaming torch."

That's BRAY-zier.

You guessed it. The reader proclaimed "a smoking *brassiere* and a flaming torch" and I was caught completely off-guard. I almost lost it. One of the people in the congregation, who happened to be looking in my direction at just that time, later told me he wished he'd had his video camera to record the contortions of my face and body as I tried not to react.

During the reading of the first reading for Palm Sunday (the same in each Cycle), we have part of one of the 'Servant Songs' from Isaiah (Is 50:4-7): "...I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting...."

That's "buffet" as in Warren.

My reader, who had no time to prepare for the reading, as we determined who'd be reading what just before Mass began, dutifully proclaimed, "my face I did not shield from [bu-fays] and spitting." Now, I suspect in French that would be just fine, but unless he was talking about Army chow halls, I'm not sure his pronunciation conveyed the sense of the original text.

I was pretty good at stifling a gasp, if I do say so myself.

I just love my job!

May all who are celebrating Passover these days and all who are observing Holy Week be filled with graces and peace.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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