Friday, 28 November 2008

This, That but Less of the Other.

Of your charity, pray for the soul of Father Douglas Arthur Cobb, 1925-2008. Parish Priest, Saint Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, 1963-1987, Chaplain to the convent of Saint Mary at the Cross 1987-1992.

Post number 666 has come and gone, it was about Christ the King in Darwen. Christ the King has a house called The Ark as some of you may know, waiting for Him in Bedford, maintained by a devoted few people who have recently installed new curtains. They are the remnant of a larger group, once wealthy (and would be again if they sold their other buildings) Victorians who saw this as their Great Work. Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn have much to answer for. Such unlucky numbers out of the way we can return to the humdrum of life unaffected by superstition and lunacy.

This week has been a very busy one, highlights of which include receiving a package with the icons of Our Lady of Mercy and Saint Thomas of Canterbury for the Holy Souls altar. They will be blessed and installed on the Epiphany, it is hoped. The Advent wreath also went up, supported by a particularly fine display of foliage as usual, this, mixed with the laying out today of a purple High Mass set with attendant cope for the Asperges to be used this Sunday is a reminder that Winter is well and truly here. The Church is a little barer, a few cloths have gone here and there and the High Altar is a little plainer for the next few weeks, the shrines will not have their candles lit except the lamps and the few remaining flowers will be gone next week. Preparations for the Carol Service and candlelight procession have begun. Small boys will be instructed not, under any circumstances, to allow their voices to break until the fourth verse of 'Once in Royal David's City' and there is already the tutting at how much more Port costs this year than last, Christmas service times cards are being printed and Nativity Plays are filling up every available gap.

It can be a wonderful time of year, of course, and I have no quarrel with people who think it's 'great for the kiddies' and fill their boots with discounted electricals, I pray that at some point the spirit of God will touch them during this magical season and I do my best to show by example what the season is really about, but I have no intention of being a humbug, even though the lights annoy me in November and I am sure that at some point in the next month I will write about how much the whole process is an irritant. Be yourself in the moment, not who you were in the past or want to be in the future. Besides, the singing of 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel', the lighting of coloured candles on a crown and the smell of charcoal, incense and wax at midnight and the glimpse of the Bambino being brought out in the gold humeral veil is far more moving than a hundred years of Cilla Black's 'Surprise, Surprise' (has it been so long?) and The Queen.

At the heart is the truth, unsurprisingly, written about with beauty. The most accessible, most beautiful tool in the Christian toolbox are the Nativity narratives. They are known by almost everyone, even Carols at Kings cuts through the stream of crap on the telly like a knife through silk, offering a glimpse of the numinous, (even though they dress their crucifer in a latin chasuble to annoy me). Christmas Carols remind people of Dickens, not Church, alas. It is the scriptures which have the handle on the emotion of the majority of people at this time. The clear, slow reading of them and clear, joyful preaching on the Nativity of Christ is a joy to behold and has converted a few people who I know (as has good preaching at funerals, but that is another story). On Sunday evening, at the step of the Altar as we worship Christ in the Blessed Sacrament during the service of Benediction (6pm, all welcome) I will be praying for the familiar story of the nativity of Our Lord to encourage the downcast, lead the penitent to confession (now, now, do it now, the new year is almost upon us, how can you hope to welcome the King of Kings with a sinful heart, it is nothing short of hypocrisy) and bring the broken to the message of the Angels. There will still be work to do in the morning, there will still be people dying in the cold on the streets during the night, and today will still be a difficult day caring for the (very) sick but we must sew together the worship of Christ in the holy Sacrament of the Altar and the duty of care for the needy until they are two parts of a circle, joined and incomplete without the other.