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A RECUMBENT BIKE

Pat bought me a “recumbent” exercise bike for Christmas! As most of you know 2007 was the year when I confronted by own mortality, first with cancer and then with a frightful form of pneumonia which nearly sent me swiftly into the next world. In the process neuropathy attacked my toes and feet, I lost about twenty pounds and in consequence a good deal of what muscles I ever had.

So after years of avoiding all forms of exercise except for ritual genuflections, I must get strong and recover. The neck size of my clerical shirts, once a bullish eighteen and a half has shrunk over an inch. Mercifully my Parson son Mark has a smaller neck than I and was able to give me a couple of shirts but even in them I look like an aged clerical turtle.

In nine days time Pat and I fly out to be interviewed by a search committee of a parish near Chicago and I must give some impression that I have the stamina to take on a new parish. That exercise bike must swiftly toughen me up.

By its web site the parish looks lovely. Obviously there was some money about in that fairly small community once upon a time. The church building is gothic, built of stone. The stained glass windows are tasteful. The altar remains against the east wall, dominated by a huge crucifix. There’s a tabernacle and one is told that all services are conducted according to Rite 1, the revised Cranmerian version not too unlike the 1549 BCP. (That was the first Prayer Book in English authorized for the Church of England.)

People say that with my accent even Rite 2 sounds like Rite 1. I can’t help it. I know I’ve been in the USA for about forty years but when asked why I don’t now have an American accent I reply that I’ve never found one I wanted to swap my own for. I was sent to one of those schools when I was a boy at which local dialects were suppressed. At any rate my Yorkshire coal-miner’s daughter mother had taught herself to speak “The King’s English” and was determined that I should not sound like a country bumpkin. Snobbery! As a result while I can imitate accents I can’t adopt them.

I notice that after dabbling with new translations of the bidding prayer and of the Bible for the Lessons, Kings College Cambridge has returned to Eric Milner-White’s text of the Nine Lessons and Carols Service. Even the Pope is now allowing the Latin Mass. Young people flock to candle light Compline services in olde English. What on earth is going on?

I’ve always said that there is no reason at all why there should not be a particular language for the liturgy. Indeed it is probably impossible not to have a special language for prayer. Corporate worship is all about learning the vocabulary of faith which can never be the language of the supermarket or the sports page -both of which have their own vocabulary. Talking about God, heaven, redemption, hell (although not in polite Episcopalian society) “the means of grace and the hope of glory” involves a language as precise as that used by computer geeks; a language to be learned and absorbed. A person who hasn’t grown up using God-speak, once attracted to the Faith must learn that language and use the archaisms of liturgy whether in their Rite 1 or Rite 2 forms. God spare them from some of the humorless verbiage of some of the permitted newer rites our liturgical experts churn out.

A liturgy which is archaic for its own sake, accompanied by a ritual designed for those performing it, is no liturgy at all; it is self-indulgence. On the other hand a liturgy which uses beauty in language and form, in memorable texts and expressions may be a vehicle of enormous power.

And yet, in one of those unguarded moments during the Midnight Mass last night, as I read Eucharistic Prayer B in Rite 2 I thought that if I am called to a Rite 1 parish I shall miss that particularly splendid Eucharistic Prayer.

Well I better get Pat to put the bike together. If I attempt so to do it will collapse at first ride. If I am called to the parish in question (there are one or two others demonstrating some interest in this semi-geriatric priest) it will probably be my last as a full time priest. Yet I love being a priest now if anything more than I did, well I won’t say how many years ago, when I was about my present weight and numbered among those “green things upon the earth” visited upon long-suffering parishes.

A Blessed Christmas to you all.

3 Responses

  1. look this is the “diet” i told you about you should really enter the site 🙂 bye enter the site

  2. Prayer B is my favorite, “…in subjection under your Christ.”
    I hope you have a great trip, whatever may come.
    Much love-

  3. Well written article.

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