Three months later: weeks of changing light bulbs, crawling through garages to figure out how the heating works, the infamous broken disability lift (which keeps breaking, right before a major event), the gallery whose mould and dust seems to have no end (we’re on a crusade to create a healthy environment for our singers!).
Through it all, the liturgical year has carried us: the messages of the gospels, end-time, and then Advent. And for the first time in more than fifteen years, I’ll get the chance to actually plan and see into reality the liturgies of Christmas.
In the midst of all these labours, I’ve had small moments of breakthroughs – not that this is what it’s all about. But they’ve been there to experience, if one has the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
Since the end of September, I’ve been making sure to be at almost every 1:05PM daily liturgy in Newman’s University Church. Progress here is measured in centimetres... nothing spectacular. Every day, I’ve quietly added guitar to the Communion Rite – no expectations of participation. And the guitar has had to take on many new Irish tunes as well – beautiful, evocative tunes that this country is known for.
But when we hit the “purple season” of Advent, it was time to make the small move: a printed booklet of hymns, psalms and acclamations from both sides of the Atlantic. “Sein Allelu” appeared along with a lovely Advent Irish rendition of “Bi Íosa Im Chroise.” Bit, by bit, we added sung repertoire to the celebration.
And we came, finally, to the last weekday liturgy of Advent, Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent – December 23rd. Normally Fridays are a scant daily congregation... people are wrapping up for the week. But this day, the crowd was much larger. And for the last time in 2016, we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Just one verse (these people are on lunch break!) And just to close out the season, I played the entire thing through instrumentally, thinking that people would jump out of their pews and head back to work.
No one moved. Not a soul. Everyone stood in silent witness, soaking up every note, every chord. I didn’t even realize it until I looked up, halfway through the “postlude” on the guitar.
It was a silent ratification. The quiet, appreciative, understated Irish way of saying “thank you for what you’re doing.”
Now we look to the Nativity. Step, by step, by holy step.