or The Curate's Egg
Advent wreaths . . . Hmmm! I am unsure about the latest fashion in advent wreaths, that is, to have five candles of three different colours, three purple, one pink and one white in the middle. Apart from anything else they look like a cassata ice cream. Actually, when I think about it, 1 am also unsure about four mauveypurple candles and a pink one the colour of the sugared mice I used to like so much before I was old enough to pay my dentist. You can however, buy such candle kits from reputable church suppliers, (at vast expense) so who am I to demur? '
Actually, now I come to think of it, I am unsure about having advent wreaths in church at all. I think their place is more in the home or the school. In liturgical terms I think a wreath has a limited value for expressing the meaning of the season; like an Advent calendar it counts us down to Christmas (hence the fifth white candle!).. Advent is much more than that.
I approve of the desire to make Advent "special," but
there are far more liturgical ways of doing this. Apart from the richness of the prayers and readings, there are wonderful advent hymns we could be singing not the same tired old, "In bread we bring you Lord", "I the Lord of sea and sky" which we sing summer, winter, autumn, Easter, Pentecost, First Communjon and Confirmation, funerals and weddings.
Perhaps we could try sticking to the instructions and not have organ voluntaries or other "instrumentals" during this time. If we hadn't turned the sanctuary into a study in concrete and shag pile we could have hung a few purple altar frontals or lectern falls about the place to give people a visual reminder of the season and make things more "adventy". It seems to me that the advent wreath hints at the lack of symbolism in our liturgy rather than a richness in it. Our MC was chagrined when I declined to bless the wreath for the fourth time at the evening Mass.
It may be that I am seeing things through slightly jaundiced optics. Put it down to a busy Sunday and an unusually large dose of practising what I preached. I suggested that we were to emulate the doorkeeper in the gospel and keep vigil and lo, the doorbell went all afternoon.
First comes a woman asking for me to pray over her because she was under "some kind of a mind control". She has tried a medium and a spiritualist church, and she tells me, without any hint of irony, that I am positively her last resort. "It is just that there is so much negative energy swirling about me." She obviously hasn't tried knocking at presbyteries on a Sunday afternoon before. I tell her that the Colossians had the same trouble and St Paul insisted that Jesus was far above any power in heaven or in the underworld. I counsel to avoid mediums or spiritualists and suggest she is well ahead of the game if, as a baptised Catholic she can just make do with the sacraments and some holy water.
Next is a rather flushed gentleman he is penniless and starving. I used to feel very sorry for such people. I still
do, but I am more wary of giving them money. Now my acid test is if they want food. Today, as usual, though my friend claimed tb be starving it isn't food he wants, he must have money.
I give him a couple of quid from the poor box and wonder if I have been too harsh or too gullible. Probably I will only find out in eternity. Meanwhile I am always left with doubts about what would have been best to do.
The hon. sec. of Churches Together calls to deliver some tickets for the joint carol service and asks if we can display a poster advertising a Christmas music and dance workshop based on T S Eliot's "Journey of the Magi." With all the largesse a curate can muster I say stick it up. After all, it worked for Old Possum and his cats, why not for Churches Together?
And so another Sunday ends. Advent is begun, reminding me that there is really no such thing as "another Sunday" each one is a week nearer or further from salvation. My Christian life is not about maintaining a status quo, biding time. I am to expect something sudden and dramatic in the here and now. I should be clamouring for the Lord to tear open the heavens and come down, down to the everyday and the humdrum.
Now as never before Jesus is coming with salvation. I should be watching and waiting, my wits sharpened, for great things will happen this Advent. They are none of my doing, but of the one whose ancient name is Our Redeemer.