Friday, 25 December 2009
So, like ghosts of Christmas Eve, we go to Midnight Mass at the Abbey, which is literally round the corner and looks like this inside, only candle-lit and packed....
And from the outside, like this...
...just less ghostly. Being High it is smells and bells and the full articulation of Anglican vowels. It sings, it processes, it prays, it sermons (it even quotes Oscar Wilde), and eventually it takes the sacrament, which is an altogether serious matter and we sit that part out. It would, after all, be strange to drop in, have a quick nip of blood and flesh, then be off again. A serious house on serious earth it is. We don't wear cycle clips, and are not ruin-bibbers, randy for antique, though those Norman arches remind us that just this sort of thing has been going on here for nine hundred years. And this midnight is what the faith is about, because without the next day, nobody would be going through any of this, nor would these Norman arches with their lozenges and diapers be curving over us.
Besides, I find these services moving, or rather a peculiar, almost incomprehensible, mixture of the moving and the mannerly, like a tea party at God's, with nice china and biscuits delicate as doilies. But God is there in the tea or in the cup, or in the pot, along with the blood of the martyrs and the idea - the core idea after all - that the God being worshipped is, in his own poets' mouths, "begotten not created".
But no, I am not of this or any religion's party, nor indeed of what Parliament refers to as 'the party opposite' by which I don't mean the party of the devil but of the great atheist evangelists. I am of the puzzled party who is astonished to be alive at all, because living is astonishing and not quite credible. Nor does it go on for ever, so, eventually, naturally, I am of the dead party, the Party of the Dear Departed too.
Maybe a small but thunderous Methodist Chapel in, say, Leeds or Wigan, might be fun. Perhaps a brass band. And a bit of subsistence-level pro-wrestling straight after, down at the corn exchange.