Thursday, May 17, 2007

A rant for Ascension day!

This morning started very early - not because I needed to be up for some dawn service but because the birds outside the window were just too loud to ignore.
For a few moments I toyed with the idea of driving to Oxford, Tewkesbury or anywhere else where that I might find a choir greeting the day atop a church tower, but common sense prevailed. Given the rest of the day, I'm still not sure whether this was a Good or Bad decision. It might have been wonderful - but so was the extra hour of sleep, which I probably needed more than a burst of "Coelus Ascendit Hodie".
The day went on.
Morning Prayer was one of those times when you can hear the laughter of the Liturgical Commission as you dart back and forth through the book, needing every single one of the numerous ribbons provided - and still coming seriously unstuck with navigation. In fact, I stopped and prayed aloud something along the lines of "Dear Lord God, if you know where we ought to be in this service, I'm sorry because I'm sure we're not there but I hope you realise we're trying really hard...."
After that, of course, it was hard to take anything seriously!

There was work being done on the church alarm system, which meant that there were numerous ladders about the place, - and I did wonder if one or more Little Fishes might be tempted to try the Ascension for themselves, thus...(in the event, they made do with the pulpit)

It's sad that Ascension is such a forgotten feast.
This year, few people chose to observe what was in my childhood (and I'm not really as old as I feel tonight) a major feast, deemed worthy of a day off lessons.
I fully understand that it's never going to make it onto a list of festivals suitable for adoption by Hallmark - and, as it lacks both candle-light AND chocolate, it's not a great candidate for the list of "come and see" services. Even within the church, it's just not popular. When I was hunting for an interesting prayer for the day, none of my funky, non-liturgical, knock-you-out-with-the- beauty-of-the-vision books had anything at all. They just leap straight from Easter to Pentecost, which says quite alot about the difficulties people have with Ascension. Too many visions of toes vanishing into the clouds, I guess - enough to deter anyone with a grain of common sense.
But surely to goodness, what we're celebrating is rather more exciting and real than a dodgy medieval wall painting...
Nobody is actually expecting us to haul ourselves up to heaven by our finger-nails (not even grumpy curates, who are feeling that the weight of the whole church rests on their arthritic shoulders)
Nobody is sitting with a tick-list noting which holy days of obligation we've decided not to bother about.
But if we're trying to live and rejoice in the Kingdom, Ascension is a good time to celebrate that.

I'm just saying...


Mary said...

Yes, after months of simple Morning Prayers requiring only a few of the seriously fraying ribbons (does everyone have this problem?) today was seriously challenging. And yes again, when I was at boarding school, Ascension Day was the best day of the year -- no lessons, early chapel and then house outings, complete with picnic, to places of interest near Hertford or just places where we could get lost. Only someone who was at my 1940s style boarding school in the 60s could possibly appreciate the excitement of what now sounds like a very mundane treat. Our celebratory eucharist this evening, with its congregation of six, was also a joy in its way but I do think we shouldn't try to sing big hymns in such circumstances!

marcella said...

Has it ever occurred to you that the place where we now live is a very protestant one?
Secularisation and the ageing nature of the congregation (and the distracted absent mindedness of some of the slightly younger members) are probably to blame for the poor attendances at the services that were on offer but I suspect that people have ALWAYS had to travel to Tewkesbury (which really should be in Worcestershire) or that place which is not Gloucestershire for a "proper" Ascension Day

Kathryn said...

Do you know, marcella, I'd not thought of that...was trying to square the circle of people TELLING me that they value the catholic heritage and practice of St M's and the evidence that they are absolutely m-o-t-r in their practice, and see Sunday attendance as more than adequate for their spiritual needs.
But you're probably right that their roots are actually rather different.
The big hymns went OK for us, thanks to the choir (who were out in almost full strength, bless them)- in fact, the lack of joy may have been largely a figment of the curate's imagination. Who knows?

Cal said...

Ooh I was in Oxford yesterday - but didn't manage a service. Shame. Did manage a walk through the parks and an ale or too in the Turf though.

Dr Moose said...

Thanks for this Kathryn, it spurred on my chain of thoughts for my blog. I have, of course, linked back to here.

dave paisley said...

Hmm, seems to me like Ascension Day could use some model rocket firings or something of that ilk to spice it up.

At least it might boost the proportion of aeronautical engineers in attendance :)

Then again, where are the contemporary songs about Ascension? Seems a shame to leave all the (relatively) obscure feasts in the hands of the 17th century composers.