Monday, October 11, 2004


I went to The Church of the Resurrection yesterday for solemn high mass. It's a beautiful, beautiful church, and the liturgy is indeed very high there, complete with a reading of "The Last Gospel" (John 1:1-17) after the Benediction and Dismissal, and "The Angelus" at the end of the mass - something I've never seen before. This service was called "Harvest Thanksgiving," and I gather it has something to do with English custom. (Again! The Anglophilia in this church!)

The Mystery Worshipper who reviewed Resurrection described "the delighful, prayer-filled haze of incense" - and so it was. I can still see the layers of smoke drifting through the air by the half-open windows facing the street. I do love incense, at least occasionally; it evokes hugely potent sense memories - and "occasionally" is more wonderful, to me, in fact, than experiencing it every week. (A few weeks ago I went to a dim sum place with a friend for lunch and spent part of our time together sniffing the tea leaves, which had the same strong, dense smell as church incense. I even asked the waiter what kind of tea it was; "flower tea" was the answer, whatever that is. I'll find it sometime, though, of this I am certain; I know I shall not rest until I do.)

In any case, it was the most fussy, nosebleed-high mass I've ever been to - even beating out St. Mary's, and that's really saying something. So much going on! The precise movement and ritual; the wildly colorful vestments, including birettas - over the top, there, IMO, but I can live with it; the many, many genuflexions; the incense. Ah, the incense. The fragrant haze surrounding us all, like the impressionistic fog of a film dream sequence, throughout the whole hour-and-a-half of the service and afterwards. The whole service like a dream, actually - the sweet music, and the murmur of prayers and chants, and the bells: all part of the slow, slow, methodical buildup to the climax of the communion itself. A kind of calm serenity about it all. Then an easy descent back to the world, to rest and pray, to give thanks. And then the last gospel reminded us what the whole thing was all about: that the Word has existed from the very Beginning - that the Word was with God, and the Word was God. That, unbelievably, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Don't forget.

Then getting slowly up to leave at the end, almost regretfully, to go outside into a beautiful cold sunny morning. All a dream.

(Man! I am really hooked now, and what in the world am I going to do about that? Cold turkey at some point, I guess....)


stukley said...

Thanks..what a beautiful description of a place and experience. My wife and I were communicants there in the 70's. Not so High Church then..still had communion table facing congregation. Fr dead..a dear man. Many happy memories. Last couple Rectors got the Tridentine thing going which is beautiful but not really my cup of tea as it is not authentically Anglican or Episcopalian. Never existed in C of E tradition. Sarum use before Reformation with no preparation at foot of altar and last gospel back in sacristy. Book of Common Prayer pretty faithful to pre-reformation Sarum rite. Now, I believe you are like me..nostalgia, smells, senses play no small part in "greasing the skids" towards spirituality..ESPECIALLY nostalgia for a 73 yr old. Alot of experimenting going on, but the old ways,..the ways of your childhood in church (if you were lucky enough to have one)..these old ways seem to settle me into worship. Anyway, that's me. By the way, in the 40's and 50's St Mary the Virgin was strictly pre 1962 Tridentine Missal in English. Standing room only ..5 masses a Sunday. Middle and uppermiddle class families. UR right..Resurrection now "higher"

bls said...

Thanks for reading and commenting. That was 3-1/2 years ago, at the beginning of my Excellent Anglo-Catholic Adventure.

I'm much more a St. Mary the Virgin type, I've since learned; it's more relaxed there - strictly Rite II Prayer Book, BTW - and I'm really not into the whole Tridentine thing much. You would probably like St. MV, in fact, if you haven't been lately. Actually, Katharine Jefferts-Schori is celebrant for Annunciation tonight; imagine that at Resurrection!

Well, we can't; wouldn't happen.

It sounds as though I would've enjoyed Resurrection in the 70s, too, actually. Birettas, etc., actually are a bit too much for me.


Thanks again -