in an English parish church in November AD 2011
ADVENT SUNDAY EVENING: O Lord, open thou our lips. And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise. O God make speed to save us. O Lord make haste to help us. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
A large congregation, and a goodly number in the Quire and Places where they sing; the hymn book, the (1662) Prayer Book, the versicles and responses, the Choir, the Psalm, the Lessons, the clouds of incense, the organ, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis, the Apostles’ Creed, the collects, the Anthem, the prayers (for Her Majesty’s good governance amongst these), the well sung hymns, the sermon, It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old … and an evening prayer, and blessing.
“Wonderful. Wonder-full. Like a cathedral” – someone said at the door. Quite so. Like a cathedral. That’s what we aspire to. That’s what we’re reaching for. The cathedra, the seat of the Lord God Almighty. That’s why a parish church exists – seats in the heart of holiness, for everyone, and a door. The gate of Heaven. The place of
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back … *
The place to which we lift up our eyes to seek succour and counsel, in company with praying people through ages past – the vision of which takes our minds off guarding our little piles of stuff for a while; the vision that takes our minds off wondering “what I want for Christmas” and the gold-wrapped but still fragile little securities that leave us still wanting – to notice the advent of God; to notice the gift of the Life of God in glorious, mysterious, immortal, invisible wisdom: reaching. Reaching to touch and to bless and to heal us. Advent, adventus. Come! We welcome you into your City, Lord. Come! Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants as may be most expedient for them.
Some things in the world and in the Church of God are, quite simply, everlastingly fresh expressions.
* R S Thomas, The Kingdom