Last night was Maundy Thursday, and I played the organ at Sacred Heart Church, just two blocks away from the Lutheran Church of Honolulu where I had spent 35 Maundy Thursdays. It well could have been 2,000 miles away in terms of musical style — well, more like 2,000 years away.
During the footwashing rite, I must have played at least 20 repetitions of the Ghanaian hymn, “Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love” for the people to get their feet washed. I guess I was grateful that only selected representatives from the congregation had their feet washed at Sacred Heart, not everybody like at other Catholic churches, where all in attendance get their feet washed — I remember Father William telling us once that in a single Maundy Thursday service, he would wash 250-300 people’s feet and more! I wonder how many towels they used!
If you remember from my post (“It’s Holy Week, but …”), it was last year’s Holy Week and Easter which my husband Carl Crosier and I missed completely. He had just undergone his third round of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, in addition to twenty-five doses of radiation. He was so weak and feeling so ill that he spent 23 out of 24 hours in a fetal position. I dared not leave him, so we stayed home and I tended to his needs.
Last night’s Sacred Heart service started at 7:00 pm, and when I got into my car to drive home, I looked at the clock, and it said 8:26. Hmmm, I thought, the LCH service probably hasn’t gotten out yet, because they started at 7:30. And then I realized that what was playing on public radio at that moment was the “Gratias agimus tibi” from Bach’s Mass in B Minor. I couldn’t help but think that Hawaii Public Radio had given me a special Maundy Thursday gift by airing the recording of this masterpiece. You see, it was to the same music that Bach set at the end of the Mass, the sonorous and triumphant “Agnus Dei” which I played for Carl on his deathbed, and we saw tears rolling down his cheeks. Go back and read my post, “Bach to the end.”
After conducting the second performance of the B-Minor Mass on May 13, 2011, Carl told me that when he got to the last page of the piece, he told himself, “In a few moments, it will all be over.” For you see, that was the last piece he conducted in concert before retiring as the Cantor. It also turned out to be the last piece of Bach he ever conducted — after 70 Bach cantatas, all six motets, Magnificat, Christmas Oratorio, the Brandenburg Concertos, St. Matthew Passion, and the St. John Passion.
Oh, the irony of it all!