Ritualistic aside

Another blogger, linking our last post, used the killing initials “tl/dr” to warn against its length (a mere two thousand words, or 2.67 newspaper pundit columns). The letters stand for, “too long / didn’t read.”

Let us assure gently alarmed reader that it is really just ten much shorter posts, elaborately woven together. In our limited experience as lyricist & librettist (“the Ira Gershwin of Edith Street” as we hope to be remembered), we thought two or three minutes enough for a song. Some songs might be extended to four or five minutes, but making a habit of it suggests prolixity. Still, occasionally, one should go for fifteen, & explore the possibilities of the Ode form. (We have always adored Pindar.) Of course one will lose one’s audience about three minutes in, but why should they call all the shots?

That previous post makes (arguably) ten related points. But there is an eleventh signalled by a single word: “reverence.” This in turn reprises the subtext in several recent posts before it.


“Anger makes you blind,” a blind person once told us, to explain why, when he was angry, he would bump into things he would never have hit when tranquil — white cane or no white cane. He was confirming something any blind person could tell you. But he told us something else, too, that was very interesting: “Reverence makes you sighted.”

If there were one criticism to make, about the whole tendency of contemporary life — one criticism, for starters — it would be this. Not only in the celebration of the Mass, but in the celebration of life at large, “reverence” is too often omitted.

The Hindus in India — or shall we say, the “traditional” Hindus, for their religion like ours has taken a pounding & is endlessly run over in the streets — were very good at this. Our heart stopped once, watching a poor Hindu in his dhoti, immersed near the bank of a rather polluted river (the Ganges). It was dawn & he was saying his dawn prayers, beyond mudflats illumined as if by the brush of J.M.W. Turner. In all our travels in India, perhaps we never saw something so beautiful, as the stature of reverence in this frail little man. In despite of all the carnage & squalor of modern urbanizing Indian life, there he still was, as he had been for perhaps three thousand years. Our love for India overflowed: for all India, & as we imagined, all her twenty billion people (only a small fraction on Earth at this day). Each one of them known to God.

And to our mind as a Christian, Christ heard his prayer. (“There are other sheep I have, that are not of this fold.”)

To our mind, the Catholic Mass is the ritual, par excellence. Which is why it must never be said or sung in any perfunctory or irreverent manner. Yet the Mass also requires the support of a manner of life that includes ritual, in every small thing. In the world we contemn, nothing is sacred. But in the world for which we long, everything is sacred, including the way we knead the dough for our naan, & the way we make our tea.