Wednesday, 10 December 2008

In the Pink.

Two people e-mailed last night asking for an example of a rose vestment. I fear that I may have misled the arch-Protestants, who believed it to somehow be rose shaped. Sorry. Here is a rose chasuble, one of the concelebrants (that word again) chasubles which will be worn this Sunday with its associated stole and maniple. Anglicans have sometimes called Gaudete and Laetare Sundays 'Refreshment Sunday', as the Latin names were theoretically redundant as the Introit containing the moniker was not generally sung. They were days, in the dark nights of Advent and the fasting season of Lent, when the church would be a wee bit brighter, thanks to the extra candles on the altar, maybe having acolytes, and maybe the organ, as was the custom in Advent, would play twiddly bits during processions, and in Lent the organ would be used on Laetare Sunday as a change to the unaccompanied singing from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday. In some traditions, the organ was used simply to accompany hymns, in the simplest way possible.

For people, then, who had much of their entertainment in the Church, and to whom the Church gave light and beauty, these were days of extra celebration in the midst of hard times of the year. Much of this is lost, of course. The world goes by faster, is full of light and colour and has previously unimagined pots of short-lived joy to dip into, and ever -ncreasing armies of people, ourselves included, to pick up the pieces when the pot is found to be wanting. Many of these groups have been successful because of their honest engagement in the world, without judging or marginalising groups of God's people for their perceived lack of virtue. The first thing any of us is is a sinner, able to be redeemed by the grace of God and not by any inherent skill or abilities of our own.

Santa Claus, realising that it is not Christmas (see Ecclesiastical Trifles in the side bar) goes back to Lapland, forsaking Clitheroe Market until later in the month. I love Clitheroe, a typical small market town in a rural location, full of solid pubs and shops, as well as a thriving market which attracts tourists along with the castle and a very fine wine shop. In the evening, there are alcohol related problems as well as the usual drugs problems which affect small towns in the middle of nowhere which have no trains after a certain point, thus meaning that the teenagers are unable to go to the nearest town and do the generally pretty harmless things which growing bodies with hormones changing at a rapid, terrifying rate need to do. Alas, these things get demonised in our increasingly cotton wool wrapped world and are stored up for later, leading to peculiar adults. There are plenty of kids round here wearing hoodies and drinking cans of cider, but I have known many of them since they were younger and know their names. So what if they want to retreat into a private language and world of terrible music? I should be far more disturbed if they were seen wandering around listening to Cliff Richard and wearing polished shoes. Then something really would be up.

Anyway, here at the Post House Hotel in Clitheroe, a pint of bitter, a plate of kidneys then a braised lamb dinner can still be had for less than ten quid and still have change for pudding (yes, really). It's a proper local restaurant where you just wander in from the street and sit down. The owner knows everyone and looks after them, pensioners can sit in peace chatting away to each other and, if you have the Sports section, you become the broadcasting service for the previous day's races. There's no privacy whatsoever and it's really quite marvellous.

Another e-mail yesterday picked me up on my 'unAnglican' support for Purgatory and praying for the departed. I am not going to enter into a diatribe, but leave a poem, which is far more helpful.

How can I cease to pray for thee?
Somewhere in God's great universe thou art today.
Can He not reach thee with His tender care?
Can He not hear me when for thee I pray?
What matters it to Him who holds within
The hollow of His hands all worlds, all space,
That thou art done with earthly pain and sin?
Somewhere within His ken thou has a place.
Somewhere thou livest and has need of Him;
Somewhere thy soul sees higher heights to climb;
And somewhere still there may be valleys dim
That thou must pass to reach the heights sublime.
Then all the more e'en if thou canst not hear,
Poor human words of blessing will I pray,
O true, brave heart! God bless thee whereso'er
In God's great universe thou art today!

We may remember that during WWI the Church prayed unceasingly for the young men sent out to fight. When it became clear that they were not to return, it seemed natural to pray for their souls as well. We do well in this way, for we pray for the dead and for each other when alive, we are made in God's image and who is to expect that we cease praying for each other when we die? Do the saints not pray for us?