The Procession of the Holy Spirit (Part Two)

Brother Causticus observes with a certain knowing resignation that once again St. Euphemesius Day has descended upon our parish in a somewhat untidy manner. Tucked as it is in the between the third and fourth Sundays of Advent, it tends to be overshadowed by the general penitential bludgeonings of preparations for the upcoming Feast of the Nativity.

As BC has noted previously, however, our parish's St. Euphemesius Day procession is one of the most joyous occasions of the Christian year – hurried as the general rush out the door to its commencement might be - and something of a homecoming for those parishioners of St. Euphemesius-By-The-Freeway who find Divine Services conflict with a proper celebration of Christmas, but make their faithful way to the rites of the patronal feast and exhibit great offense when the curate welcomes as them as newcomers to the church of which they consider themselves pillars by virtue of their annual deposit of a crisp twenty in the collection plate on Easter.

In the midst of this distracted disregard, however, Brother Causticus and the Reverend Deacon Thorndike Andrewes have been at work for some time with the festal preparations, assisted by the choir master and a rather good bottle of eighteen-year-old Cill Mhearnáig generally unobtainable on these shores of the Atlantic but procured by the resourceful deacon through a counterpart in orders of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Whilst BC and Deacon Andrewes occupied themselves with the liturgy and the odd wee dram, the choir master rehearsed his minions in the processional music.

The hymnody of St. Euphemesius Day is admittedly somewhat circumscribed, although it is said that “When Manners All Are Gracious” very nearly was included in Hymns Ancient and Modern but stricken from the final compilation as a gesture of reconciliation to low churchmen on the committee whose bid for “Fonts of Blood Doth Gush” was thwarted. In practical recognition of the significant gap between the respective lengths of the procession and the catalog of thematic songs, St. Euphemesius Day music includes a number of Advent hymns and a smattering of Gregorian chant. Prominent among these is the suitably venerable “Veni, Emmanuel” rendered regrettably, in BC’s view, in a language understanded of the people as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and waggishly referred to as “seven Os in a row” by certain off-color elements of the choir. BC hums it in Latin sotto voce throughout the procession.

Devotional preparations well in hand, Brother Causticus’ chief duty on the feast day is, as holder of the ancient and honorable office of verger, to gather all into some semblance of order behind crucifer, thurifer, torch bearers, clergy, and choir as the procession prepares to wend its way through the streets of our town.

This involves, for the most part, assisting children unaccustomed, in accordance with contemporary parenting practices, to having their activities limited in any direct manner, to assume a proper posture and remain sufficiently silent so that prayers may be offered by officiants and heard by more than the Almighty alone.

A visitor to St. Euphemesius-By-The-Freeway once remarked to BC, upon viewing the assembled congregants, that the parish was to be commended for its outreach to single mothers. BC hastened to assure the observer that our church was not afflicted by a statistically severe outbreak of divorce or bastardry and most female parishioners with children in tow were indeed joined in Holy Matrimony, but to husbands who were rarely in attendance at Divine Services owing to The Game, the exact nature of which varied according to the liturgical season, but Sabbath after Sabbath necessitated private devotions at home.

Brother Causticus therefore often finds himself acting as a something of a paterfamilias for the ecclesiastically orphaned and maintains a watchful eye for situations where a masculine presence wielding a stout rod might be of service. As is the custom, this feast day offered many opportunities to muster a corrective mien and guide recalcitrant youth to amendment of living.

Near the Sunday School doorway, such a call to vigorous ministry was arising. A mother was explaining in the simplest of terms to her son that the toys he fiercely clutched in his arms were not his to remove from the premises, to which he responded succinctly, “Mine, mine, mine!”

“But,” his mother remonstrated patiently, “These aren’t yours. They belong to the church. You need to leave them here.”

“No, mine, mine, they’re mine!”

BC began his approach.

“No,” his mother explained, “These toys are for all the children, not just you. If you take them, other children won’t be able to play with them. Put them down and leave them here.”

“Mine. Mine. Mine. No. No. No!”

BC had the verge at the ready.

“No, they are not yours,” said the mother firmly, removing the toys from his arms, “You will leave them here, John-David.”

And with that she marched him off empty-handed and out of sight, leaving Brother Causticus to turn his attention to the final preparations for the solemnities.

Although St. Euphemesius-By-The-Freeway has, through a series of incremental liturgical maneuvers, found itself a something of a 1979 Rite II parish – excepting certain emendations to allow several occasions for those so inclined to bewail their manifold sins and a general recognition that Eucharistic Prayer C is best rendered by Mr. William Shatner – the traditional St. Euphemesius Day collect is drawn from the 1932 Much Lesser Feasts and Fasts:

Almighty God, who hast shewn unto us the way of mannered restraint: Grant that we, encouraged by the most seemly example of thy servant Euphemesius, may persevere in decorously doing that which must needs be done while eschewing a surfeit of murmuring and ostentation, until at last we may with him attain to thy blessed equanimity; through Jesus Christ, the most subtle perfecter of our good taste, who liveth and reigneth unobtrusively with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

With that hearty Amen, the choir bursts into song and, as BC processes in front with the verge, the assembled People of God move into the streets solemnly forward to the Premium Outlet Mall.

A word of explanation is no doubt in order and will be forthcoming, but first BC must attend to his office. There is troubled talk of a bishop skulking about where even now the procession is forming. It is likely a large lump of liturgical lumber will be needed anon.

Here endeth the lesson of Part II.