Yesterday eveving I attended Evensong at Wells Cathedral. I had gone assuming that it would be a sung Evensong but found myself in St Martins Chapel amongst a small group of worshippers with the Book of Common Prayer in my hands. I experience formalised worship like this as something akin to those little wisdom expressions that come in sweets, Chinese something cookies. I also have ideas of the I Ching in my mind, in the sense that I understand the texts of the Bible to carry the possibility of meaning appropriate to any circumstance. So I sat there listening or rather trying to keep up whilst listening as those taking part have a role to play in speaking through the responses and finding the correct rhythm to the pauses.
The meaning that I might have found is secondary to my surprise. I returned this morning to Matins to experience it again. The odd manufacture of the Christian liturgy, of the whole edifice is quite a construction. Most of all it is the maintenance of the Old Testament in the present. The constant reference to the people of Israel, the promise of God to the Israelites. In this century when the real Israelites have returned to the Holy Land (Holy through Jesus not David) the use of their name to speak of Gods purpose and mystery is very painful. No wonder that Islam sees Israel as the spear of a Christian west when the formal Church continues to rail at the Philistines.
Wash out your mouth said the Lord.
This land is not yours any more that theirs.
All fall short of my command.
Pharasees and Philistines alike.
It takes a mighty army or a sling
But either way its not justice recorded
But victory called by some defeat.
So its restful in St Martins Chapel, intimate, you might be next to a Bishop or pauper in a small room. Barely any one really cares is the truth. We pray for the Cathedral and it is a good measure of the faithful. Don’t trust God, War or food you gather from the floor. Don’t even trust museums, even living ones like this great edifice with its worshippers like lice eating a fictive dandruff. I’ve nothing against lice and they do live on and on.