Was on way back from Red Hen (mug of regular, a twist, looking out the window at the bus stop and Scoville Park) to St. Edmund’s, my usual port of call in matters of worship, when passing the Green Line station I had an Episcopal vision.
It was the ashes-to-go priest in long stole, hands free, and two burly fellows standing with back against the stone wall on the left as you enter, ready with ashes. “Ashes to go,” she said with a smile, and the two ashes-holders echoed that. I had to stop. Fellow Christians were honoring the day.
A moment of greeting with smile, then my inspired retort, pointing: “Remember, thou art dust.” And they got it, Mother Whoever especially, smiling agreement, recognizing the ages-old recommendation to the ashes-receiver, “Remember Man, thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”
As with Thomas Gray’s “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” Or Shelley’s “Ozymandias, King of Kings,” whose gravestone warned, “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
My second Episcopal moment came in the afternoon, walking past St. Christopher’s at Adams and East. It was their sign which I have passed many times but this time noticed with a certain leaping up of the heart, like Wordsworth: “8:00 a.m.: Holy Eucharist, Rite I.”
Rite I! It was a sort of Latin mass for the Episcopal Church, the old way of worship before the ’70s, when the church revised the Book of Common Prayer amidst great hand-wringing — but kept it for those who wanted it. Hence Rite I at 8;00 on Sunday, Rite II (the revised service) at 10:30.
My Roman Catholic church, on the other hand, at Vatican II a few years earlier instituted a new way, in English, but — and this was too bad — forbade the old and punished priests who resisted. (Much later restored it.) Was that not heavy-handed? Was it necessary?