Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shrovetide Musings

I've been blogging less lately, because of work pressures and lack of motivation... it seems stupid to blather on when one has nothing of import to report.

But, lest the all-important sitemeter start recording a huge drop in visitors (quelle horreur), I thought I should at least type something.

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As all men know, to-day is Shrove Sunday, and therefore yester-day was Shrove-Saturday, or rather Egg-Saturday!  To celebrate in the approved manner, I had pancakes for breakfast (with bananas and walnuts and maple syrup).  Maple syrup – must be one of the few native North American contributions to world food (just as the macadamia nut is Australia's one and only domesticated native crop).

On a more serious note, I also went to confession, as is my practice on Saturday morning, and as is peculiarly apposite in Shrovetide – for the term means "the time for shrift", "shrift" being the old term for being absolved in the Sacrament of Penance.  So, having been shriven yester-day, this morning at Mass I was houselled (given Holy Communion).  

Shrift and Housel: the two quotidian sacraments for all Christians!  St Philip staunchly counselled that all frequently confess their sins, that thus worthily prepared they might partake of the blessings of receiving their Saviour in the most comfortable Sacrament of the altar.  As fallen men – who frequently fail, and who (in these evil latter days) scarce live as Christians should, not having the heroic strength of those who formed the Early Church of the saints and martyrs – we ever need forgiveness, and ghostly strength: hence, shrift and housel.

These things I shall think over in my heart, therefore will I hope:
The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed: because his commiserations have not failed.
They are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, said my soul: therefore will I wait for him.
The Lord is good to them that hope in him, to the soul that seeketh him.

— Lamentations iii, 21-24

I should also note that "housel" is cognate with Gothic hunsl, a sacrifice – just as "host" implies the notion of Christ as the Divine Victim, mystically offered up on the altar in propitation for all offences, pleading for all our needs, because His Sacrifice on the Cross is made truly present in all its power and might.  For Mass is no mere Communion Service – whether we receive or not, the greatest Prayer is offered up, the most prevailing petition, the most potent to obtain the Divine assistance.

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Is it perverse of me to prefer Mass with a wise, devout, understanding priest, albeit in a parish setting where the music and some of the liturgy is not ideal, to Mass at Carmel, where, although the music and the good sisters' care of the celebration is commendable, one may encounter priests whose sermons can be less than orthodox, whom frankly one doesn't like, and who, one fears, reciprocate the sentiment?

Enough said!

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When the liturgy is less than ideal (as when appalling songs are sung), I tend to retreat into myself, and turn to my handy Diurnal, so as to read some of the day's Office.  I recall that Fortescue reprobates the clergy catching up on the Hours at Mass, but as a layman I can do as I please.  (It will appear eccentric, but, as they say, "If the cap fits, wear it!"  I've never worried what others may say.)

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To return to yester-day: it was good to do as I am accustomed on Our Lady's day, that is, to have a wander round town, to read the newspapers, to have a coffee, and to buy some books at last!

(I have had severe cashflow problems until now – paying off the debts incurred on my recent European holiday, y'know.)

I've bought a nice thick guidebook for Italy – since I most definitely will holiday there again come December and January, and spend even more time in la città bellissima - Firenze.  (Every time I see pictures of Florence my heart expands with emotion; it must be Stendhal Syndrome.)  Tentatively the plan arises of persuading some of my family to join me this time, such as my sister, who would love it!  And why not hire a car and drive around Tuscany?  Hence my purchase of a road atlas of Europe.

But, nearer in time, I feel like visiting Russia!  I've bought a guidebook about the Trans-Siberian Railway, which sounds like a very interesting trip to take: I'd like to see Outer Manchuria and Siberia.  Perhaps a flight to Seoul, then up to Vladivostok, and thence by train to Moscow, with some stops along the way?  Why not...  I can read Cyrillic, so perhaps I should next try and learn some basic Russian.

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I've also been engrossed in Warlord, Carlo D'Este's biography of Churchill as a soldier and military leader: Sir Winston is a great hero of mine, as he ought be for all decent people.  One shudders to think what would have happened to the world had he not been there to take the helm in 1940, when Britain teetered on the edge of disaster...

And, in order to catch up on my understanding of the Dark Continent (no racist wickedness intended, but one can hardly call it the Happy Continent), I've bought Meredith's The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.

I thoroughly concur with what was British thinking ere the U.S. and financial pressures caused independence to come to African possessions of The Queen and other European rulers: that Africa was not ready for independence – surely a thesis sadly proven true by subsequent events forming a miserable catalogue of coups, dictatorships, massacres and oppression.  Independence was granted too soon.  After all, the Australian colonies first had fifty-odd years of direct rule, then half a century of responsible government while still tied to the Imperial Government, before they gained their independence as States federated under the Crown, with a national Parliament.

A friend who'd been in the Colonial Police in Uganda told me that in his day, women could safely walk in the streets at night, "Because we hanged rapists".  Compare that to the genocidal atrocities of Idi Amin.  Uganda since independence has suffered terribly, and I daresay still has not returned to the good governance and modest prosperity brought by British rule.  Similarly, the income gap between North and South, between Europe and Africa, has widened, not lessened, since independence of the former came to the latter.  Without the rule of law, there is no security for anyone, and only the elite currently in power can prosper, and that at the expense of everyone else.

But perhaps I should now read the book, rather than just list my preconceptions!

1 comment:

Mark M said...

Russia!? If you go, I'm coming with you! I've always wanted to go... :D