Brian’s Reflection: Friday, March 4, 2010
It is written: “Oil and incense gladden the heart.”
(Proverbs 27: 9) God said: “Of all the offerings that
you bring me, none of them is as dear to me as the
incense offering; for while all the offerings are for
expiation of wrongdoings, or for thanksgiving,
or for accompaniment of restitution, the incense
offering is for joy alone.”
Midrash Tanchuma, Tetzaveb, No. 15
You know: that’s what I miss about good ‘ole over-the-top “high church” liturgical carry-on! Oh, in some quarters it could get a little prissy and legalistic or too “militaristic”. But the best – with glorious rich colourful vestments and beautiful vessels and wonderful music and simple elegant choreography and lots and lots of incense and censing that was enthusiastic – was for the sheer joy of honouring the God of Unconditional Love. I really miss it! As a colleague said yesterday, “We are too often in our heads”.
(When I was in seminary, I got dressed down by the Dean for being too “exhibitionist” as the thurifer - it had bells! - for an ordination in the GTS chapel. And at my ordination, there was so much incense that you could only see the bishop from the waist up!)
“For Joy Alone”. If I were elected Pope tomorrow, that would be the motto I would choose for my papal crest, and it would have a golden thurible on it wafting clouds of incense. Anyway: The World is in a right mess these days. Lots of things to depress and discourage us. Lots of work to do to try and bring justice and peace and respect and generosity and kindness into our corner of the World. Expiation for wrongdoings to offer, and restitutions to be made.
But let’s not forget Thanksgivings. And above all, let’s not forget the “incense offering for Joy alone”, and what’s really at the center of our Lives.