Monday, 24 November 2008

When the O gets it O-so-right, or: the Story of O

Ok, the O really has taken it in the neck from me, and blog readers must be thinking, "Jeebus, Irim, if you're in Dante's 8th Circle and can get out, you do not pass go and don't collect £200. So f***ing leave already!"

*Sigh* How to explain? Being at the O can be a bit like being in love with an emotionally unavailable man. He'll never let you all the way in because there's too much baggage. You get close and he runs in the other direction. Give up and walk away? I can almost time the return chase.

The push and pull will drive you crazy. Finally, you get fed up and swear you're gonna walk...

...and then he does that THING. You know, that THING that no other guy could ever, ever do. The one that drives you wild and keeps you going back.

Vespers last night was a manifestation of the O thing. I was on my way back home from class and decided that I wanted the utter stillness that only Latin Vespers can bring. I slipped in early, had the half-lit church to myself for a while, then watched the brethren slip up the side to the sacristy.

Then, the processional and the sharp smell of incense - last night's made me want to go up to Yaqoob, grab the thurible, bury my face in it and inhale.
Bliss. Stuff the liturgy.

The tableau was gorgeous...brethren in black and white on each side, accented by the gold copes of the cantors and the celebrant. Candles on the altar. The half-lighting remained.

This was when the marriage of the simplicity (Minimal organ, simple chant) and beauty/sensuality - the textures, the smells, the movement - that *thing* the Oratory does for me really came into its own. The office was the picture and the beauty was the perfect frame. No fussiness, no over-ornamentation, no self-consciousness, just 'Here it is.'

And the liturgy became more than itself and a real stairway to heaven.

Oh, and I can't leave it without congratulating the cantors - Dom and Saffadeacon. I just closed my eyes to listen to you two.

Then I stayed for mass and thought, "Yeah, this is the *thing*, too."

So, what other manifestations of that *thing* are there?

1. Fr Dominic singing mass. Every single time. O. my. god. I will NEVER forget the first time I heard his voice in isolation: it was at Benediction on a Friday night (I was coming in for mass) and I just froze. Jane once said that his voice reminded her of Venice - you look over your shoulder and you half-expect it to be gone; it seems so fragile and ethereal. YES.

But you have to hear him for yourself. He claims to only have 5 notes. It's the only lie he tells.

1b. (corollary) Fr Dom singing the Regina Caeli during Eastertide. I would BRIBE brethren to tell me when he's on. Basically, Fr Dom singing anything.

1c. (corollary 2) Well, Fr Dom, full stop, really. Incredible singer (already noted), brilliant confessor and friend. Wicked sense of humour. Not a bad Indian accent, either.

2. Fr Joseph saying mass, which was the source of last night's 2nd manifestation. He says mass with such utter faith and authority, the liturgy transcends itself every time, whether it's a Monday, 7.30 am or the Sunday 11. Oh, and especially his adoption of the old mass habit of crossing you with the reminds me of my friend's dad, who used to cross the foreheads of all the kids going to sleep in the house, whether they were his or not. This makes me feel just as safe as that used to.

2b. Fr Joseph with children. He can come across as really tough, but bring a child in and he melts faster than butter in the Pakistani sun. He's just wonderful with them and I have to say, I would happily leave any child of mine with him sans thinking twice. I'd be a bit worried that she'd come home able to recite the catechism at me, though...;)

3. Their capes. So help me, Lady, I'm going to 'accidentally walk off ' with one in the near future. Capes with sleeves. WANT.

4. Palestrina. Tallis. Byrd. VICTORIA. (Please feel free to lose everyone after 1850, folks. Hinthint Oh, except for ND Jacob, he's pretty good.)

5. Latin. And not because I'm a stickler for tradition, but because Latin is sexy. YES, it is. Listen to those vowels, people!

6. The fact that mass is given reverence and pride of place. Can it be a bit uptight and too fussy at times? Ja, absolutely. But far better that direction that the other. Mass is the centerpiece of the faith, the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice and is worth your full attention and reverence.

7. Incense, incense, incense. I WANNA BE THURIFER! No, I am NOT an addict. At all. Really.

Ok, ok, I admit, I have a problem. Hi, my name is Irim and I'm an incense addict.
All together now: Hi, Irim.

8. The pleasure of MCing from my seat without having the responsibility on the sanctuary. Which means I can imagine and play with ALL sorts of evilly difficult scenarios :-D

9. Triddy/Newman Society baiting. 'nuff said.

10. Black vestments and REAL unbleached candles.

11. Laughing in the confessional. Yes, really.

12. Working at the Lodge and having members of the community drift in for a chat.

13. The fact that Fr Jerome knows almost everything. And he visited me at work! :-)

14. Fr Robert telling it like it is, like a true Northerner.

15. Fr Richard's giggling fits when something happens on the sanctuary. When he gets started, he can't stop, and if I looked at him, I would have to leave the church.

16. ANY one of them cracking up on the sanctuary, though for me, Dom, Saffadeacon and Nick would be the worst, b/c they've got these huge grins that light up a room. When the shoulders start shaking, I keep custody of the eyes, or I'd have to leave.

17. The fact that, though they take mass seriously, they CAN crack up on the sanctuary.

18. Discussing HP with Fr Daniel.

19. Saffadeacon, for his steady presence, humour, friendship, sermons and generally being a pillar of sanity. With the more than occasional klap that I've needed ;).

20. 'Qoob, my bhai-ji. Who just makes me laugh and is good practice for my Lahori accent.

21. Asta, who has been a surrogate mother since we met. I love you.

22. Margaret. You know all the reasons why.

23. John Lynam. Surrogate Dad I, or cuddly dad, who will listen to anything, tease me gently, and just be there. My general/cryptic crossword puzzle partner and the reason I'll move heaven and earth to make it to the O on a Monday evening. Funny, lovable and loving, and the maker of a MEAN gin 'n' mix. Nick would be able to weasel those birthdays he wants to know out of me after only ONE of those.

23b. Jeanne Lynam.

24. John Ferris. Surrogate Dad II and Walsingham partner in crime. My real theological study partner, b/c even though he says, "Some of your views horrify me," he listens with respect and without judgment and thinks about his responses. No matter what I tell him, I'm absolutely safe and still loved.

24b. Elizabeth Ferris.

25. Those friends I haven't mentioned above and those I've met at the O and am still friends with, even though they're no longer there.

26. Everyone who volunteers - porters, cleaners, Social Club, the lot. THANK YOU from me - I remember how hard it can be.

27. Holy Hour, Benediction and the pre-7.30am hush.

28. The Lady Chapel.

29. Oh! The 40 Hours, especially Friday night if the lights are out/down.

30. The Easter Triduum - the stripping of the altars Maundy Thursday would send chills down your spine. Christmas midnight mass. All Souls'. The biggies.

31. Fr Anton in the choir

32. Br Nick - his looks of mock horror when I say something to shock
keep me in stitches. Always followed by a deceptively mild/confused response, just leaving me time to duck an absolute zinger delivered in that Capetonian accent. Can be trusted to be the one mirroring my "WTF?" look when someone says something seriously stupid. Another good friend and pillar of sanity.

33. Have to end with Saffadeacon, our (temporarily) resident redhead, in pink on Laetare and Gaudete Sundays. The last chance to see him thusly dressed is Sunday, 14 December at 11am. Be there. I most certainly will.

What with 33 being the perfect number/age, I'll stop there.

Does this make ANY of the emotional stuff I've talked about any easier? Does it make it all sunshine and rainbows? Of course not. It's still hard work.

But it's an insight into why I can't break up completely, and why, even though we can't be a committed couple, the Oratory and I need to keep seeing eachother.

After all, if the sex liturgy is that good, with kindred spirits amongst our mutual friends, surely that's worth the more-than-occasional booty call?

1 comment:

Ariel said...

I remember the first time I ever heard Father Dominic sing mass. It bowled me over - almost literally; I had to grab the pew for support. And I never got used to it, either; I can say calmly enough, 'The most beautiful voice I've ever heard was Dominic Jacob's,' but each time I heard it was like the first time. "Beautiful", "exquisite", "magickal"... none of them do his voice justice. It's not just the most beautiful voice I've ever heard; it's the most beautiful voice I'll ever hear.