Friday, April 08, 2005

Joel Achenbach offends some of his readers

In taking a sarcastic tone in his post regarding the pope's funeral, the Washington Post's Joel Achenbach managed to piss off a bunch of people. Take a quick read through his the comments. Personally, I thought his take was funny and not the least bit offensive. He apologized in a follow-up post, saying that the Post's giving him a blog was like "giving a shotgun to a monkey" and that he's probably going to make his readers mad in future posts. I look forward to reading them.

I, too, have Catholic envy this week (as you may have noticed from my earlier post). I've been to Jewish weddings and funerals, and neither has as much ceremony as your typical Catholic Mass. But I always enjoy the rituals of the High Holidays and even the regular Friday night Shabbat service has some great ancient aspects to it -- anything involving the Torah makes me feel connected to the beginnings of Judaism over 5000 years ago. When I was a little kid I used to love the end of the Torah reading, when the rabbi would have someone from the congregation lift the Torah from the pulpit and hold it up so that the congregation could see the writing on the scrolls. And the music at that point in the service always struck me as beautiful and triumphant.

While I'm not down with the idea of Holy Communion (I never really understood the concept of transubstantiation), I like a Mass now and then. I played in a pickup orchestra for Christmas Mass at Georgetown once, and had a great time. Heck, in my first week at Georgetown, I played in a hastily assembled quartet for the Mass of the Holy Spirit to celebrate the beginning of the school year. I'd never even been to a mass before, and there I was playing hymns and marveling at the idea that I was at a school where I could be drafted to play for a huge event like that just because they needed a violist. It says more about Georgetown's lack of excellent musicians than it does about my meager talents.

Speaking of music, the Catholics get all the good religious music. Some of my favorite choral works are masses and requiems by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Even Leonard Bernstein wrote a mass. Lutherans have a great assortment of Bach chorales and cantatas to choose from. Jews have some old melodies that are worth hearing, but my fondest musical memory from my Reform synagogue is hearing the choir on Rosh Hashanah singing a "Hallelujah" chorus from one of Haydn's oratorios (The Creation, I think). That's religious, but it certainly isn't Jewish.

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