Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The Rites of Mid-Winter

This has been a rather solemn week, liturgically speaking, particularly for a Unitarian married to a practising Anglican.

On Sunday, I decided to accompany the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter to church, having given it a miss for several weeks. I used to be a regular churchgoer, but the Unitarian church here in Ottawa doesn't feel so much like a church as a country club, only with a air of earnestness and social responsibility. So, after five years of banging my head against a brick steeple, I started accompanying my husband to his church, which sadly has only emphasized the fact that the one thing I've truly learned from all these years of being married to an Anglican is that I'm definitely not an Anglican. Still as Anglican churches go, the RFB's is not bad. I'd even go so far to say that it's the most Unitarian Anglican church I've ever attended. And that's saying something. This is probably due to the high percentage of gays that attend this particular church. I'd never met an Anglican church with a "rainbow section" before. (You don't have to be gay to be Unitarian, far from it, but the Unitarian church was blessing gay unions many years before it became legal in Canada for gays and lesbians to wed.)

All of which has absolutely nothing to do with why I decided to go along with the Resident Fan Boy last Sunday. It was Candlemas, a holy day I've always rather liked. (Groundhog Day has to be one of the lamest ideas ever.) I love watching younger daughter's face as she grasps the lit candles and the lights go off for the reading of the Gospel. And watching my daughter's face in the candlelight, I found myself choking back tears at the words of the gradual hymn, sung to the old English folk song O Waly Waly: "O little love, who comes again/ the Word reborn to make God plain..." For Candlemas, like most liturgical things, has a strong undercurrent of sorrow. It's based on the story of Simeon who saw the infant Jesus being brought to the temple to be presented, so it contains the Nunc Dimittis, the canticle of Simeon, the words you hear at nearly every Christian funeral: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace . . . ." And the not-so-comforting words to Jesus' parents: "a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also . . . ."

These strange shining pools in the centre of the dark, festivals in wintertime, are like roses with thorns for parents, particularly parents of special-needs children. But all the same, it is beautiful, and although I cannot in good conscience call myself a Christian, I do rather love the words from the opening of the Gospel of St John: ". . . the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not". Modern translations say: "and the darkness has not overcome it" which is no fun at all; I like the idea of the darkness saying "Huh?" Rather like my younger daughter shining out there in the sea of neurotypicalness...

Lent comes early this year, treading on the heels of Candlemas, so the service was supposed to end with the "burial of the alleluias" which we missed because the service went overtime and we had to catch our bus. All the same, this meant hauling out some of the best hymns for the last time before Easter, and younger daughter particularly enjoyed "All Creatures of our God and King" which is called the "Mr Bean Hymn" at our house. (Younger daughter adores Mr Bean who surely must be a little PDD himself.) And tonight we'll have pancakes and bacon and sausage for Shrove Tuesday. Tomorrow, the Resident Fan Boy will decide whether to brave the elements to get his forehead smudged on Ash Wednesday.

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