Monday, 24 December 2012

Cross cultural Christmas Eve

I awoke at twenty past five, well before dawn, and couldn't settle back into sleep, so I got up and wrote a meditation for Christmas Eve, by which time the coastline was bathed in pale orange light, and the sky clear of clouds. As there was no threat of rain, we did a load of washing and hung it out to dry. After breakfast we went shopping for Christmas food, visiting the town's covered market for some generous portions of chicken (head and breast sliced off in one piece) at the decent price of €4 apiece. We also bought a couple of sea-bass - 'spigola' in Italian for the same price, and more veggies. The fridge is full!

When we got back, the washing was still disappointingly damp. The line where it is hung on the terrace is in the shade all the time in winter. As it's Christmas Eve, I opened the church gate and entrance door, put on the lights decorating the presepio and a CD of British Christmas carols which Clare brought with her. It could just be heard from the road above, but whether that's enough to lure any visitors in to enjoy the church in festive attire, it's hard to tell. While I prepared lunch Clare went off in brilliant sunshine to look at the Greek amphitheatre. We'd only just finished eating when Pastor Andreas arrived, and soon after Suore Tarcisia, with an invitation for us to join in an ecumenical celebration at the Convent followed by supper on the 29th December. The occasion concludes 2012, designated by the Pope as 'The Year of Faith'.

The Lutherans had a congregation of nearly thirty, and we joined them for their Heiliger Abend service, ten carols were sung, the Lukan nativity Gospel was read in two parts and Pfarrer Andreas preached in a lively manner. It's notable that the expatriate community in Sicily has its own bi-lingual German and Italian version of the Deutches Gesangbuch. Interesting that it's not German and English with regard to the American Lutherans. There must surely be some in Sicily given the US military presence.  

Just before we started we were chatting with an American woman with German husband sitting in front. She was commenting about the beautful view from the church, then commented dryly "Those must be your knickers out there." We'd forgotten to gather in the damp washing and failed to realise that the oriel windows looking north from the church overlooked out terrace. In horror Clare ran out and rescued the situation just before the service began. I just sat there, laughing helplessly as quietly as as I could.

The Lutherans all departed early enough for me to get away to Vespers and adoration at the Convent, and to deliver a couple of posters aadvertising tomorrow morning's service on my way there and back. The spigola cooked for supper was just delicious, rounded off with two different kinds of orange from the Convent orchard. It's the first Christams Eve that I can remember spending on our own together.  

I've enjoyed getting used to participating in the Divine Office in Italian several times a week. Thankfully its layout and content are familiar enough and the Psalms well remembered after forty years of personal use in English. This afternoon, worshipping in German in addition, brought back rich memories of the epic Parish trip to Leipzig taken with Fr Geoff Johnston and six others just weeks before the German Democratic Republic collapsed and the Wall was torn down. I rarely use German these days but made an effort when we took that unique trip, and got a feel for the German Protestant ethos of prayer and witness, which remains with me across nearly a quarter of a century.

I'm very grateful that my lifetime's journey as an Anglican has been so very ecumenically diverse, allowing me to be at home in prayer with people from all over Europe and the rest of the world.

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