Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter, or "How to combine the Regina Coeli and 'Sweet Transvestite' in the same blog post"

First of all, I hope you all had a good Easter. Mine was spent in the company of some ASF volunteers currently working in Berlin based projects, who had decided to use the four day weekend to break out of their Berlin bubble!

I attended the Triduum, the three part Easter liturgy which begins on Thursday evening and concludes with the Saturday night/Sunday morning Easter Vigil Mass, in two locations for the first time. On Good Friday I attended the Good Friday service at the Carmelite Convent on the KZ Dachau Memorial Site grounds. I had been looking forward to this for a while (if such a thing is possible!) as I felt there was something quite difficult about commemorating, even celebrating the Passion of Christ in a Concentration Camp Memorial Site. In a place where senseless violence irrevocably altered the lives of over two hundred thousand people, even more if you include their families, the commemoration of what was (to Christians) a necessary act of violence for salvation took place is quite hard to take.

However the liturgy was led superbly by Pastoral Chaplain Mr. Ludwig Schmidinger and Fr. Klaus Spiegel, O.S.B. It was kept simple, using only a few chants sung by the Carmelite nuns, and did not shy away from the contemporary context in which they celebrated the liturgy.

On Saturday I attended the Vigil Mass in the Jesuit run Michaelskirche, where I attend Sunday Mass more regularly than anywhere else. It is the closest thing I have to a parish here. At 8.50pm, ten minutes before the start, the place was packed with people, many bringing with them stools and baskets of food to be blessed. Clocking in at 2 hours and 35 minutes, it was an experience I will likely never forget, especially celebrating the liturgy in another language and culture. Afterwards my Polish friend and I were on a religious high. She sang a traditional ending hymn in Polish, and I asked what it was. She replied "Himmelskoenigin", or "Queen of Heaven" in English. In response I sang the Latin Regina Coeli, the traditional closing Marian antiphon for Carmelites during Eastertide. If you're interested, it goes like so:

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia:
Quia quem meruisti portare. alleluia,
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia,
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

(Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.)

It must be said nobody even batted an eyelid. The streets were full of people holding half burnt-out candles and blessed baskets of bread for the Easter feast the next day, so our actions were clearly the norm. Such is life in Munich!

We joined our group in a Thai restaurant just round the back of Odeonsplatz, where I had discovered there is a thriving Karaoke community. We went in to find half the clientele looking at us, and one of the singers in the middle of a Thai pop song. My friend had been there an hour and still not had a single request played, though the place began to empty by 1am as the time for the last S-Bahn drew ever nearer. The group considered their position, and decided that they would commit to the night. What followed was the best Easter ever.

The set list was as follows: Bohemian Rhapsody, Flashdance, Rocket Man (in the style of William Shatner), Sweet Transvestite, Time Warp, I Wanna Dance With Somebody and to conclude, I Had The Time of My Life. It really was a glorious evening, and though many of our group were not convinced it was worth getting back to Dachau at 6.20am for, I am very grateful to them for giving me the chance to do so. We even got to see the sunrise on Easter morning from Petershausen station, as we waited for the first S-Bahn of the day. I have some wonderful friends, I really do...

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