Jesus w/ Palms

Holy Week

Jesus w/ Palms

Palm Sunday commences the week known as “holy week” in the Christian tradition. This is final week of the solemn period of Lent, but it is also as much about the very nature of humans as it is about the story of the death, resurrection and divinity of Jesus. During my lifetime, my devotion to the Catholic faith has gone from strong to passive and back again, but though all those years I’ve always had a strong affinity and curiosity about the extraordinary events of holy week.

During the week of the Passover, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted by cheering crowds who laid down their cloaks and palm branches in front of him to honor his path. By every appearance this seemed to be a triumphant event for this rabbi from the hinterlands of Galilee now entering the very seat of culture, religion, tradition and power for the Jewish people. However, in less than five days, these very same crowds that lauded Jesus on Sunday would demand his crucifixion on Friday. Thus began holy week and the extraordinary story of betrayal, the Last Supper, the passion of the Christ and the miracle of Easter. Uniquely in the modern day, the commemoration of holy week does not fall on a fixed date on the calendar but is instead determined by a lunar and seasonal pattern tied to the traditional Hebrew calendar. This dates back to the earliest Christians who observed of the annual celebration in relation to Passover.

For many years (and as my devotion somewhat waned) this was just another right of Spring, another one of those seasonal holidays that we keep to mark the time of the year. A few decades back I wrote the song “Good Friday”, not in the sacred religious context, but more as allegory for a doomed past relationship. Still, I’ve always enjoyed Easter in spring and would make it an annual tradition to enjoy the music of Jesus Christ Superstar during holy week. This outstanding 1970 rock opera record by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber combines theatrical music with classic rock n’ roll. To me, that album always had interesting (albeit not completely accurate) interpretations of the many stories during holy week including the arrival in Jerusalem, the turning over of the temple, the last supper, the garden of Gethesemene, the denial and, of course, the trial, persecution and crucifixion of Jesus. However, that album always lacked a true ending or satisfying conclusion as it ends with the death rather than the resurrection of Jesus. (Check out my review of Jesus Christ Superstar here.)

Within recent years I have returned much more strongly to my Catholic faith and now have a much greater appreciation for that fantastical, impossible, miraculous event that capped off holy week and just how important that has been for the redemption of all of us humans. It is the conduit between the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent creator and the mortals He created. It is the one true miracle that offers an open and guiding hand for each and every one of us towards the here after. And, as such, it can display our tragic human tendency to quickly turn away from that which is most true.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, people exclaimed “hosanna” and those very same people later screamed, “crucify him” with equal vigor. What had changed in that short intervening time? Had Jesus publicly done anything or said anything wrong? Of course not. The change was only in the popular will, and the very nature of people to go along with the crowd. We have seen such things in our own time and our own world and recent years, whether it be rioting for certain causes or blindly, obeying draconian orders under the guise of the apparent “public good”. Both the engine of human nature and the divinity of God are the most profound and extreme mysteries to us mortal men and this week holy week is the great confluence of both states.

~ Ric Albano

Rural country

A Note on Gratitude

Rural country

Happy Thanksgiving!

I think this is a remarkable holiday because, unlike all the rest on the national level, we don’t celebrate a historic event or remember a specific person or group of people. Instead, thanksgiving is really a holiday which celebrates a virtue, and that virtue is gratitude.

There’s the old adage that goes something like; “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days while they’re still happening” and as one gets older, one recognizes the wisdom of this statement. But I can honestly say that things have not been better for me personally than they are today. And I think taking a moment to reflect on all the blessings of life and offering real gratitude may be the best way to realize that these are the good ole’ days.

I’ve long believed that there are four major pillars upon which we need to build a good life – physical, financial, social, and spiritual – and this year I’ve made great improvements in all of these. At this moment, I’m in the best physical health than I’ve been probably this century, my web business has been busier than ever in recent months, I’m working on the best music I’ve ever produced and I have . There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s good to be heading in the right direction.

And then there’s my incredible family, starting with my incredible wife of 27 years, our four adult children, my mother who is still going strong well into her eighties, and especially that pleasant, curious, and happy little granddaughter with whom I’ve been bonding with more and more as she gives me fresh enthusiasm for this world. And she could not have better parents than my son and daughter-in-law, who are so well adapted to being first time parents.

Now, with all this happy-happy stuff, I am still aware that a shoe could drop at any moment and all this great “luck” can come crashing down. There’s tragedy in every life ultimately, and it’s times like those when we really need to turn to God. But I’d like to make the far less common gesture of turning towards God at this incredible moment in time when I reflect on how fortunate my family and I are at this time.

~ Ric Albano

Am I Really a God?

GhostbustersYears ago (I believe it was the mid 1980s) I had a business in New York City with a few partners. Although I am prohibited by pending litigation from disclosing the finer details about this company, I can say that we were a startup which used cutting edge technology and set up shop in an old municipal building. Anyway, we were out on a service call one night when one of my partners said to me “Ray…” (they called me ‘Ray’ back then, long story) anyway, he said;

Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say ‘YES’!”

Although this was some sound advice which I’ve never forgotten, I really hadn’t given it much thought through the years as, surprisingly, no one has really asked me if I’m a god in the past 30 years or so. But lately I’ve been considering it.

About a year ago, my son Jacob and I were driving home from visiting my eldest son in New York City. When we passed the exit for Annandale (New Jersey) I was naturally moved to exclaim;

California tumbles into the sea, that will be the day I go back to Annandale…”

At first Jacob looked at me strangely, not getting the reference but just then “My Old School” by Steely Dan (the very song I had just quoted) came on the satellite radio. Was this a coincidence? I think not!

Angry BirdsJust this morning, a new Walmart commercial came on the television in which they advertised all the brand name clothing that they are offering this back-to-school season. At the end of the commercial they showed the logos for all these brands and I noticed an “Angry Birds” logo. “Angry Birds?” I asked out loud, “Since when do they make clothing?” “What was that, dear?” my wife asked. “Angry birds!” I shouted, just as a large bird flew into our bay window with a loud “thump!” Now would someone please explain just what supernatural forces I conjured up to compel that bird to risk life and wing at the very moment when I shouted?

This is something that will need much more exploration.