Saturday, January 05, 2008

Folding Chairs at the Crucifixion

Ah, if only the Romans had thought of setting up folding chairs around the cross so that people could comfortably watch the Crucifixion and not have to get their knees dusty or scratched on the rocky ground.

A bit of spiritually poisoning sarcasm by way of delayed reaction to the midnight Christmas mass I attended at the Canterbury Club parish where I served as a Reader for nearly four years.

I just made this comment in a posting over at, a discussion list to which I have belonged for more than a decade.

I am the only member of the Anglican Catholic Church in Cyprus, so there was no ACC midnight or any other Christmas mass for me to attend. I debated for awhile attending the RCC service, but couldn't face the informality of it all. I would have gone to an Orthodox service, even though I would have been prohibited from receiving the Sacrament, but couldn't face getting up at 4 in the morning for the 5-8 am service. So I broke down and went back to St Paul's. At least the music will be edifying, I thought. Sadly, the regular organist was away, and the substitute, while minimally competent, was no source of joy.

After sitting through a very literary, highly intellectual "insiders" sermon from the new bishop (attired in a red cope!), which couldn't have been less appropriate for a congregation full of "Christmas Christians" and first-timers, the Liturgy of the Mass eventually got underway. The sermon was only one of many things that had already put me off, but by the time of the Prayer of Humble Access, I could take no more and walked out. The final straw was during the consecration, when I saw in the choir pews, just outside the altar rail, lay members of the parish staff sitting there with service booklet in hand, calmly reading along as if following the libretto at the opera.

It breaks my heart, but I think I am going to have to learn to go to bed earlier so that I can get up at four o'clock in the morning.


Anonymous said...

I wish you could have been here at the cathedral in Wichita. We had "midnight Mass" in true Orthodox mode and it was very moving.
There was also a 4:30pm Vesperal Divine Liturgy for families and the elderly on Christmas eve.

Granted, you don't get the western Christmas carols and hymns we associate with Christmas and childhood but we get Christianity, unadulterated and full strength. And in the tradition of the Orthodox, our services are in the language of the people ... which here is English.

Rest assured that, aside from the infirm, if people were sitting, our bishop would tell them to stand up and pay attention to the presence of God.


Albion Land said...

Are there any albatrosses reading this blog?

Warwickensis said...

Effectively, Albion.

You're not alone. My last experience of Midnight Mass at my "local" Parish Church was dire in the extreme, and I have been effectively rendered excommunicate from there as of September of last year.

The day that the Star Trek teleport system can beam us together will be the greatest day for the peripatetic true Anglican.

God bless you in your sojourn.

poetreader said...

Beam us up, Gabriel!


Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Several years ago, before I was in Orders, my wife and I went to an ECUSA parish for Midnight Mass to visit my old rector who was now back at a local church. He was the only good part of the visit, for the rest of the service was a circus. No reverence. When I walked out I said to my wife "I feel like we haven't even been to church." The next morning we drove a bit to an APCK parish that had a 10 am Christmas day Mass. After that service I said "Now I that was the Eucharist."


Anonymous said...

Same scenario with my wife and I. We went to a supposedly "Traditional" RC Midnight Mass and where I was siuttingin the pew, I thought it was Coffee Hour, the way some were talking back and forth in the pews, as if nothing was happening up at the altar. Very, very disturbing.

Carlos said...

I have never recieved communion at an Orthodox Church before, but I have at many Roman Catholic Churches? Is there a difference in the way we are viewed by the two churches as Anglicans? Or is the liberal encompassing attitude of many Roman Catholic Priests (I've usually asked the priest before hand).

Albion Land said...


As far as I know, there is never an occasion under normal circumstances that an Orthodox priest will communicate a non-Orthodox. I think the same applies for geographic isolation and for emergencies. In the first instance, I mean people who are so far away from their own churches that it is not possible for them to communicate there. In the second, I am referring to someone on their death bed. (For that matter, I'm not even sure if is Orthodox practice to give the sacrament to the dying, but I don't know).

Furthermore, it would be difficult to "slip one past" an Orthodox priest. The Orthodox do not communicate as often as those of us in the Western Catholic tradition do, and virtually never without having first gone to confession. Hence, a strange face in the queue is likely to be challenged. (I believe also that there is a certain 'ritual' involved between each person communicating and the priest, but won't go there).

The Roman Catholic Church is liberal by comparison. As I understand it, the sacrament is always available to the dying who have no option, and also to those under geographical constraints if they seek permission in advance. IIRC, the communicant would be expected to state a belief in the Real Presence.

I must confess that I have received the sacrament many times in an RCC parish without having sought permission. I won't go into the reasons, but suffice it to say that I do not do so any more.