Monday, October 03, 2005

A night of timeless gestures in our time

This evening at my church, I attended a very special service called the Transitus. It’s a commemoration – based loosely on the Mass, but without a consecration – of the last night of St. Francis of Assisi’s life on earth, spent – as the story goes – with his brothers and the sisters of St. Clare. It’s celebrated on the vigil of the feast of St. Francis each year by many communities dedicated to his memory.

It was an hour full of symbolism and ritual. There was a flaming torch lit at the beginning of the service, standing at the altar of the darkened church, illuminating a San Damiano cross. There were readings and prayers in English, Spanish and French (to reflect the diversity of this particular church). There was a priestly blessing and the breaking of bread. Toward the end, there was even the lighting of individual candles, representing the transfer of spirit from the central torch to the community. And of course – my favorite part – there was lots of touching music, provided by a very talented pianist and singer along with help from the congregation. She even sang a version of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables, which I’d never heard before in a liturgical setting, but found very fitting.

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