When I was doing my taxes this year, it occurred to me that the process is a bit like praying the prayer of examen. This Ignatian prayer is used at the end of the day to think back on what happened that day, to ponder where God was in it and to think ahead to the next day. In doing my taxes, I was forced to think back on the events of my life in 2011, both the good and the bad.
It’s the second movement of Leonard Bernstein’s choral work, Chichester Psalms. A boy soprano (or a countertenor), in the “role” of the shepherd boy, David, sings in Hebrew the opening verses of Psalm 23. He is accompanied–sparingly, fittingly–by the harp. The first several measures are tender but not tentative; filled with sentiment, but without sentimentality (this per Bernstein’s instructions). When the women’s voices take over the text at גַּם כִּי־אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת . . . (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .) there’s an ethereal echo-canon effect. This part of the movement, when executed well, is something sublime.
One thing I have noticed as a Protestant whose tradition observes the 40 days Lent: we don't seem to be very good at observing the 50 days of the Easter season. Yes, we pull out all the stops in worship on Easter Sunday, but then we seem to immediately go back to business as usual.
A quick word on your “if it feels good, don’t do it” distillation of my message. We can dig into this more as we go, but for now I’d just point out that at various times, Christianity—and particularly my own Catholicism, the faith of carousing Irishmen, hedonistic Italians, and “give me chastity, Lord, but Lord not yet” sinners in every time and place—has been scolded for being altogether too worldly, too pleasure-loving, too forgiving of the weaknesses of the flesh.
While the war on women seems to be raging, with many religious leaders in the helm, there are also many women who are working in ministry, in spite of subtle and not-so-subtle resistence. In the last few weeks, I've been writing and talking with people about this in different venues as well as working behind-the-scenes on a few projects.