Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Morning Thanks--Worldly Wisdom IV

"No matter how long the procession,
it always returns to church."

This one's Catholic and I'm not, at least there hasn't been many processionals proceding from church doors of the particular species of Protestantism from which my people come.

When I think of processions, I see Catholic churches in Central America or South America, ritual marches that usher forth from church doors, feature elaborate costuming and wholesale religious imagery, amble around the city or town for a time, then disperse--or, as the proverb suggests, return to church. Protestant prejudice also prompts my imagination to see scourges and blood letting, but that's more likely Shiite and therefore Muslim, methinks.

The country of origin here is the Phillipines, so the embedded wisdom may well be Islamic in origin, although if it were, the last word would be mosque. For that reason I'm going to assume it's Catholic: "No matter how long the procession, it always returns to church."

My puritannical ancestry likely gave up processionals because the rituals had become too, well, gawdy, too ritualistic, too baroque for our roundhead tastes. For a people who like to say "sola scriptura," it may be good for us to remember that processionals are clearly biblical--as in Christ's palm Sunday processional on a donkey, or David's much ballyhooed solo prancing leading the ark came back to town (even though his wife thought it far too sexy). Those stories are right there in the Bible. Maybe what our largely Dutch Calvinist congregation needs to do is mount a good devout processional--and in wooden shoes. We're right there in the middle of town, after all. It's perfect.

The closest we come is funerals, like the one above, the early 20th century funeral procession of my wife's great-great grandmother in Orange City, Iowa, a procession which undoubtedly returned to church too, as all our funerals do.

But what does it mean? "However long the procession, it always returns to the church."

I can only guess. Perhaps they got old, boring. Perhaps people's feet hurt after about an hour of processional-ing. "Hold on!"--the line promises--"these things always return to where they came from."

But the church both is and gets the last word here, so the intent has to be religious somehow. How about this? If you get weary of trumpeting your own righteousness out front of the eyes of every last soul in town, relax--soon enough you'll be back at the kneeling bench. I like that but it may be way wrong.

There's a kind of deliberative calm in the promise, right? Feet hurt?--you'll be home in no time. "Are we there yet?" kids say. Finally, we say, yes.

Take a deep breath. You'll make it.

Or maybe, as with the old funeral above, we should never lose sight of the fact that the cemetery isn't the end of the journey.

Just some thoughts. Know any Phillipinos?

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