"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

21 August 2018

Performance Art

During my vacation, I had the utter joy of attending choral Evensong, not once, but twice.  One day at Westminster Abbey and the next at Canterbury.  And yes, it was sublime in every way it was supposed to be.  The choirs were beautiful, the organ was powerful, the liturgy was the solid rock on which the rest stood firm.  Not to mention the beauty of the churches themselves....

Beautiful, and wholly unsettling.  Especially at Westminster.

We were herded into the Abbey for what was billed as prayer but was in fact a cultural event, a museum piece in music.  Under no circumstances were we to enjoy our surroundings.  The man seated next to my mother was upbraided by a verger for taking out his tour book, as if informing himself about the art and architecture in which he sat would take from the experience rather than add to it.

But more notably was the beauty of the choir.  Under no circumstances were we to sing back to them.  Each phrase was sung antiphonally, by the professionals only.  To add our own broken voices would have been a desecration of their art. And so I squelched my "and with your spirit" and my "Christ have mercy" along with any other informed Anglican in that chancel.  As luck would have it, I sat in a familiar place in the stalls, but felt alienated from any role, let alone my familiar one.

The familiarity of the experience heightened my loss of voice.

And that strikes me as the opposite of the Kingdom, in which the very brokenness of our voices is turned to beauty and our performance art is nothing in our Lord's sight.

14 hours later, some man decided to drive his car into the crowd just outside that same Abbey church. And from Canterbury prayers were offered at Evensong.

I'm not sure how or if I should respond to those two Westminster images, placed side by side in my mind now, both melancholy.  But more vivid for me is how, in Canterbury, a genuine prayer broke through the performance art in response to the evil of the day.

I hope it does not always take tragedy for truth to break through.  I'm afraid it all too often does.

Christ have mercy.

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