Thursday, December 08, 2011

Evensong

Father Anonymous is just off the plane from a quick family trip to London. It wasn't especially grand -- this was a very quick trip, staying with friends in the 'burbs and hauling a belligerent preschooler everywhere we went. Fr. A. himself was suffering from a tummy bug -- which is getting worse even as he types -- and was far more belligerent than the said preschooler. (Sorry, Honey.) Comparatively few sights were seen, and many grumpy remarks were made.

Still, the trip had its charms. In a less belligerent mode, Little Anonymous put his boots out on Monday night, and St. Nicholas managed to find them. Books in our native language were purchased, a decent Tex-Mex restaurant meal was eaten, and we gather that the Buckingham Palace guards were duly changed, although by then we were on a nearby lawn swinging Little A. in circles to make him dizzy. The friends were wonderful and hospitable, and we would much rather have visited them in their old home in Surrey than their new one in Kosovo.

Among the items not checked off on Fr. A.'s personal to-do list was what he calls the John Donne Heritage Tour. At a minimum, it would have included a trip to the chapel at Lincoln's Inn (which was constructed while Donne was, essentially, a law school chaplain); a tour of St Paul's Cathedral, where Donne was dean -- albeit in the former building -- and a chance to shudder at the ghastly statue; a pop into St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, where Donne held the benefice and which, coincidentally enough, is now used by the Romanian Orthodox community. We might have ferreted out his birthplace and a few other handy landmarks as well. They're all close to each other, and, alone, could have been visited in a long afternoon. We were not, however, alone.

Still, thanks to the utterly unmerited grace of Mother A., not to mention an episode of remarkably good behavior on the part of Little A., we were able to snake past the Occupy St. Paul's tent camp and take part in choral Evensong. Anglophiles get weepy-eyed about this, and more than a little pretentious. It isn't all that much, when you come down to it: just Vespers, out of the BCP, albeit sung very nicely indeed and in a strikingly beautiful church. (If one likes Baroque.)

But here's the thing: when you're still groggy from the wee-hours flight, when your intestines have been in full revolt and your mood is foul; when you have been rushing around in the cold, arguing with your loved ones; when the world seems like a nasty place, where the rich get richer and the poor get to sleep out in the rain -- when, in short, you are face to face with the brokenness of all humanity, especially your own -- then there is nothing much better than Vespers. There is nothing much better than to hear the words of hope, and to sing the songs of Zion; nothing much better than to sit with those you love and pray Cranmer's Collect for Peace, asking for precisely that peace which the world cannot give.