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Monday, December 19, 2005

O come thou wisdom from on high

I've now been here twice in the last two days:

It's Northwest City's cathedral church, the seat of the archdiocese, and absolutely gorgeous, as you can see; the interior was renovated about 10 years ago to place the altar at the center of the church, where the two arms of the cross intersect.

If I love one church more than the one I attend in Major Eastern City, it's this one. Close to downtown, the cathedral is in what is still a fairly poor neighborhood, and it serves an extremely mixed population. Seniors from nearby nursing homes sit next to green-haired baristas, Native Americans alongside Abercrombie-wearing college kids, and prosperous burghers next to people who look as though they might well have slept outside on the steps the previous night. And it's not just the congregants--the lay minsters include women and men of all ages and ethnicities, including one guy with a long thick braid down his back and another with spiky, shockingly peroxided hair. It's a warm and welcoming community that nevertheless has the most beautiful services I've ever attended--full of ritual and drama and plainsong chants.

My mom and I drove into the city to attend mass there yesterday, and then I went in again this evening for the penance and reconciliation service (otherwise known as "confession," to you non-Catholics). I always intend to confess each lent and advent, but in point of fact I make it in about once every year-and-a-half or two years.

At both services, we sang my favorite hymn, the one I spend all year waiting for, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," the second verse of which gives this post its title:
O come, thou wisdom from on high,
Who ord'rest all things mightily.
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
The chorus, of course, is
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel
Which, when sung unaccompanied and at the proper speed, doesn't sound at all joyful, at least not in the way that we traditionally think of joy; indeed, the music is positively mournful. But there's something there--a hope-against-hope, a sense of a nearly exhausted but still persistent faith--that moves me every time.

And today, caught up in thoughts about the MLA and the job hunt (I just got negged by the one school I was really hoping for. . . but then I got a request for a phone interview for a position at a school literally eighteen blocks north of my apartment), the verse about the ordering powers of wisdom, and seeking the path of knowledge, seems particularly pertinent.

If only I had that wisdom! Those ordering powers!

(But I do have a well-stocked pantry just upstairs. Mmm: cookies.)

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:16 PM |


Blogger RLM commented at 9:49 PM~  

Mmmm, that's one of my favorite hymns as well, and I know what you mean about waiting all year for it. I love the version on Peter, Paul, & Mary's album "A Holiday Celebration" -- it's Peter (I think), a cappella, backed by the New York Choral Society. If you look up the album on Amazon.com, you can hear a snippet. Good stuff. I went to Mass this past Sunday morning, though, and was shocked to find that it wasn't on the slate of hymns for the service. I had thought it was practically *required* this time of year!

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