Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The External Workings of the Heart.

A rare photograph of Gothic Vestments. These came from a redundant Monastery.

The English Missal.

The giving of Communion.

Having only a Solemn, rather than a High Mass this Sunday, these will be the vestments used.

The prayers for the washing of Hands.

I spoke at a group a while ago concerning the Internal life of the Heart, how we measure our lives according to Gods law and commands and pace our thoughts by the ideal lived out by Christ. Christianity, I concluded, is easy to follow purely internally, but to do so is to deny it's very essence, which is to witness in a community of believers and non-believers. We spend, sometimes, too long pondering our mistakes, mulling on them far beyond our daily or weekly examen, making them into monsters while forgetting that God knew they would come, saw them happening and foresees more in the future. We measure up to His Son not by sinlessness, but in how we make amends for our sins and in how sincerely we try not to sin again, knowing, of course, that we will. The path to life in and with Christ begins with the understanding that we are inherently unable to walk the path alone and that means alone without God and alone without one another, to guide and shelter us and whom we can guide and shelter back. This is how Christ lived, in community and it is how he expects the vast majority of us to live as well. The person I have felt most sorry for in my life was a Monastic friend of mine who joined his Abbey as a young man and then was the last monk there and had to watch it being sold to developers with no real idea where he was going to go.

However, we have evolved, for better or worse, and we have an awful lot of externals, some of which are not Of God, and therefore cause bitterness between fellow committed Christians of different types. Some of which cause arguments because they are discussed by fallible people, like ourselves and we do not always understand each other or how we worship God. I am happiest where my heart is, which is in God's temple, participating in worship which has roots as deep as the earth, and which feed me and give my words and steps vitality. The external workings of the heart of humanity, as they pertain to me, centre on the Sacrifice, for which men have been put to one side since the dawn of time in many different societies to commit, where earth becomes Heaven and Grace is outpoured. A magazine once asked me, when I was a chef, what my last meal would be, and I replied 'the Bread of Life and the Cup of eternal Salvation'. They did not print my interview in the end!

This sacrifice is of necessity surrounded by love for God, which is expressed in care and reverence, in the removal of ourselves from the humdrum of life, in order to see the flames of the Holy Ghost when He is 'sent upon these offerings' and to join the heavenly chorus when the link between us and the earth is severed during the consecration. The external workings of the Heart are shown in great tables of sacrifice, in the vestments of the Attendants on the Lord, by the vessels used for the rite and the beautiful words used to remind us what we are here for.

The English Missal, for me, most perfectly sums up the workings of my Heart. (although I realise that it is not everyones taste, however, I should like to find a Parish sometime where I can offer it, God willing, once or twice a week in the weekday) From the preparation before Mass to the beautiful verses for the washing of the hands 'As for me, I shall walk in innocency...' well those of you who know me know that I do not, but I try! The rite contains nothing but that which is taught in Scripture and nothing which has no meaning, or is shallow. There is no novelty, but quiet, dignified praise. It is something for a community to aspire to, I believe. Although I think the days of English Missal High Mass on a Sunday morning are by and large gone, peoples expectations and need for entertainment and attention retention have changed. It is we who have suffered.