It’s still Christmas…..going to head over to one of the Latin markets today to pick up a Rosca de Reyes….
The boys have been in Florida for much of this week. I had come *this close* to going to NYC for those days. I was going to see Twelfth Night, Waiting for Godot, No Man’s Land and Falstaff, if I could get reasonable tickets for all on the right days. But in the end, I sat myself down and thought, “What do you really need right now? To drop them off, fly away, get them, drive back and come back to the same chaos and work load hanging over your head that you can never seem to get to until 10 o’clock at night these days? Or do you need to be in your own house, in the quiet, and really think and attempt to do some quality work…for the first time in a while?”
I went for the latter. (Or…I discerned that I should do the latter) And it was a good decision, not only because of the weather. I’ve gotten work done – with one major project to get at least planned today – and can really do some good school planning as well. I miss them – I like my quiet and solitude, but it doesn’t feel quite right without them here – but we’ll all be back together in a couple of days.
(Speaking of Falstaff and Shakespeare…the new production of Merry Wives of Windsor, reviewed by Terry Teachout today – looks awesome….)
The Orthodox church down the street from me is building a new church building. The one they use appears to have been conceived as temporary since the beginning, and the new structure already has the skeleton of an impressive dome going up. It’s interesting to drive by every day and see the progress.
The Cathedral of St. Paul here in Birmingham is beginning a lengthy external renovation. I am not sure why, but I’m guessing it has to do with shoring up the masonry. roofing and other structural issues. This is what it will look like for the next year:
But the interior is just fine:
When I went to Mass on New Year’s Day there, I thought about what “pastoral” means. It’s a word with many dimensions, and there are many ways to be “pastoral.” One foundational way is to give the people what the Church wants them to have, and not impose one’s own ideology or narcissistic personality on the ritual, whether we are ordained or lay. It’s respectful all around. It’s respectful of the Holy Spirit working through the Church’s tradition of prayer and worship, it’s respectful of the maturity of the people in the pews, it’s respectful of the delicate dynamic between human and divine action at work in all the Church’s life. God works through our efforts and presence, but we have to be continually humble and discerning of when our own needs and desires are creeping into the picture and threatening to distort what is there. When a “pastorally sensitive” liturgy turns on the opinions, tastes and likes of the celebrant, musicians and liturgy committee, you never end up with a “pastorally sensitive” liturgy. You end up with a liturgy that – not surprisingly – reflects the opinions, tastes and likes of the celebrant, musicians and liturgy committee with, quite often, personalities, rather than ritual, dominating the proceedings.
There’s a school of formation that believed that “the people” would best experience Christ through the distinctive personality of the minister – so that the celebrant’s warm, welcoming, and personal style was key in an individual and community’s encounter with Christ. It’s too much. It makes an idol of that person at the center. It opens a door to manipulation and cults of personality. We certainly meet Christ through the love and compassion of others, but structures and rituals exist as a form of checks and balances – to minimize the chances of an attention-seeking cleric or other minister to exploit his or her leadership position, and to afford a setting for prayer so the rest of us aren’t dominated by that personality.
When I went to Mass this week, the priest, quite honestly, hardly “did anything” – from an external perspective. He prayed the appropriate prayers – chanted most of them – without inserting his own extemporaneous remarks. He preached. But there were two deacons, several servers and a lot of music that was well done, but not intrusive or overbearing. In other words, the whole thing was organic, with no one piece or person dominating.
There was space that invited one to be consciously in Communion with Christ, with those gathered in the church and those a part of the Body throughout the world. The hour was not spent, eyes and ears fixed on the stylings of one individual whose individual personality and priorities came across, even unconsciously, as somehow defining and normative for everyone.
It was respectful of the movement of the Spirit in individual hearts and the hearts of the community . Even though it was in a not-plain building and even though there was a high level of music, and incense and ritual, it was…humble. It was inclusive. It was pastoral.
Another favorite Christmas carol, this time from medieval Spain.
How we will dance!
Oh, people this night
a virgin gave birth
to a child so fine,
there’s no equal on earth.
Tell us who told you
that a virgin gave birth,
for we never heard
such a thing, good sir.
The angels sang glory
to God in the the highest,
for in Bethlehem town
the child was found.
Through signs we were told
that truth would be wrapped
in a very poor blanket,
a small boy, the true God.
Peter comes near and
to God and the Virgin
he brings a bundle
that is full of treats.
Now Father Beltran will sing
for love of the Holy Child
and after, John will sing
and then they’ll give us sweets.
He will sing his song
for Jesus my good friend
who will guard us from all harm
while we sleep through the night.
And finally, this:
1. On this day youthful voices sing aloud,
joyful praising Him who was born for us,
given by God, born
of a virgin.
2. Born into the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes,
laid in a manger in an animals’ stable,
the Ruler of all, The Prince of Hell is robbed
of his spoils!
3. Three Magi came and offered their gifts.
They sought the child, following a star,
offering gold, incense and myrrh in
4. All clerks and choristers sing with angels:
“You have come into the world;
All praise to You; Glory to God
in the Highest!”
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