Bartolome Esteban Murillo
(1617 - 1682)
When I was a little girl, I used to love spending time with my father. He and I would go hiking, swimming, bike riding, or just for long drives in the car along the country roads on Vancouver Island. He was quiet and scholarly and I thought he was the wisest person I ever knew. He had the answer for every question I asked him. Once, when I was about six years old, I remember asking him what was meant by the Immaculate Conception. It was the only time I ever saw him at a loss for words, and it stick in my mind because he stammered and stuttered and was not able to explain it to me. So, it was one of those mysteries that remained a mystery.
When I was a little girl I sang in the choir at St. John's Anglican Church, which was "High Church" or otherwise known as "Anglo-Catholic". We followed the Anglican "Book of Common of Prayer", and I still have mine, but many of the rituals were Roman Catholic.
Together with the Authorized version and the works of Shakespeare, the Book of Common Prayer has been one of the three fundamental underpinnings of modern English. As it has been in regular use for centuries, many phrases from its services have passed into the English language, either as deliberate quotations or as unconscious borrowings. They are used in non-liturgical ways. For example, many authors have used quotes from the prayer book as titles for their books.
Some examples of well-known phrases from the Book of Common Prayer are:
• "Speak now or forever hold your peace" from the marriage liturgy.
• "Till death us do part", from the marriage liturgy.
• "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" from the funeral service.
• "From all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil" from the litany.
• "Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" from the collect for the second Sunday of Advent.
But I digress...
The rituals of the church were always a mystery to me. Most of them were things I did not understand. When I converted to Catholicism, Father Belanger said to me. "You will never make a good Catholic; you ask too many questions."
I have spent my life struggling with the questions. I am not a particularly religious person, but I am a spiritual person. I just don't follow the rituals and rote learning of any one creed or religious conviction. I do not have blind faith. I wish I did, and I envy people who do, but I don't. I do believe that Jesus was one of the most important people who ever lived. His short time on this earth has left a huge impact on billions of people throughout the centuries and will continue to do so for centuries to come. I have watched as friends of mine who have gone through troubled times have accepted Jesus as their Savior, and He has turned their lives around.
I have often thought how interesting it would be to sit down at a round table with Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed. What a conversation that would be. All three of them preached following the path of peace, which eventually leads to God.
I still love the rituals of the Church, and I love the old hymns and all the mystery that is part of Christmas. One of my favorite church services is midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I have not been able to attend for a few years, but maybe when the Munchkins are a bit older, they and their parents and I may attend again. I love the processional and "Once in Royal David's City". The first part is sung solo, the second part is sung by the choir, and the third part is sung by the whole congregation. When I was a little girl singing in the choir, I loved this Christmas hymn so much, when I sang it I felt close to God, and I always felt that I was forgiven for asking too many questions. Maybe that's what Christmas is all about.