Monday, September 16, 2013

Seen and heard yesterday at Divine Service

As I walked into the church, I realized it was a feast day of some sort; beautiful fresh white vestments were at the altar, and I saw the priest wearing the white chasuble.   I thought perhaps Holy Cross day was being commemorated at first - but it didn't seem likely, since this parish is pretty by-the-book, and it would be really very out of the ordinary for the rector to replace Sunday - a feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ - with a feast day that had occurred the day before, even a major one like Holy Cross.

It turned out to be a day for the Baptisms of two infant boys.  (Another baptism had taken place at the earlier service as well.)  So, the white - the traditional color of Baptism as well as for high feast days.

I actually really like Baptisms; I've always loved the opening verse-response since I first heard it:
Celebrant      There is one Body and one Spirit;
People          There is one hope in God's call to us;
Celebrant      One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
People          One God and Father of all. 

This comes directly from Ephesians 4; I first heard it at my first parish, where the rector was actually embarrassed by it.  I guess he found it "exclusionary."  That parish, in fact, constantly rewrote every part of whatever liturgy was in use, so I'm not sure how this sneaked through; perhaps the person being baptized requested the service as-is, from the Prayer Book.  I found it immensely beautiful - very like a chant:  One, one, one, one - that word repeated over and over again.  It said, all these things are unified.  It is a prayer for actual unity, as well as mystical invocation of the Unity of the One God and of our own unity in and with God - and then unity within ourselves, too, which for me is never nothing.

I love saying the Apostles' Creed.  I keep wondering, too, why we're continually bombarded by tales of the "sordid history" of the Nicene Creed, and of the horror of using it during worship - when it's really just a bit more in-depth than the Apostles' Creed, and contains mostly the same content.   The AC does go way, way back to the "early church" everybody's always raving in favor of and pretending hoping to emulate, so I really don't get the whole clutching-at-our-pearls reaction to the NC, frankly. 

On this day there were dozens of kids in the congregation; most of the people there were friends of the families whose babies were being baptized.  The font is off in a corner at the front, near the sanctuary itself; there's not much room there, but the priest invited all the kids up to sit around close so they could see - and nearly all did so.  That's a nice touch.

My favorite part of baptism is actually the chrismation, and the pronouncement that "You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ's own forever."  That's a beautiful idea.   I generally really like anything that has to do with Chrism, too!  For some reason, that particular ritual/gesture really appeals to me.

After the Chrismation, the priest held a candle up so the baby could see it, and pronounced:  "You are the light of the world."   (Along with something else I don't quite remember at the moment.)  Naturally, the baby is fascinated by the flame, and stares directly at it while this is going on; that's another really wonderful thing, since the congregation can see the baby's curiosity in his eyes and sweet young face.  (i.e., his "inquiring and discerning heart.")

I sort of smiled during the reading from Exodus, in which God was considering smiting the Israelites for their worship of the Golden Calf - but then changed his mind.  (Apparently "impassibility" and "unchangeability" both  took a back seat there for a minute.)   I wondered if there were many among the  families' friends who weren't used to hearing things like this, and how they'd respond.  (But I noticed later that most in attendance went up to receive Communion, and that there was lots of crossing going on among the older relatives - and realized there were a lot of Catholics - or perhaps ex-Catholics - in attendance.  One woman who received Communion in her seat didn't even look at the chalice when it was offered - another clear sign of a Catholic background.  Interesting, too, about the reception of Communion; when I first started coming to church, about 12 years ago, and got involved in online discussions about it, Catholics seemed to have been very opposed to the practice of reception of Communion outside the Catholic Church.  Now it seems far more common, even in that short period of time.)

The Gospel reading was the parable of the lost sheep
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The preacher pointed out that in fact it was quite unlikely that a shepherd would leave that huge flock - 100 sheep all told - unguarded and unprotected, in order to find the lost one.  Interesting idea, given that Jesus uses the "What man among you would not...." opening.

The collect for today has always been interesting to me on account of its circularity!:
O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
None of the hymns or music particularly struck me on this day, except the newer hymn "Now the Silence Now the Peace," sung for Communion; again, this seemed like a meditative chant to me.    When I first came to the church, I really didn't like a lot of the hymns in the 1982 Hymnal; they seemed too old and slow and emotionless - and often the tunes were just plain unattractive.  For some reason, these always seem to be used during this long stretch of Ordinary Time.  I can grin and bear it, though, and sing along anyway.

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