Sunday, 2 December 2012

First Sunday in Advent

I had plenty of time to get ready for today's Eucharist, preparing the after-service drinks trolley, familiarising myself with the layout of the big complex Common Worship altar book. I've used it again in College occasionaly this last year or so, but it's hardly familiar, as I've had little recourse to using it since my time in Geneva and Monaco over a decade ago. I got the impression it was a less than familiar book layout to preceding locums, given the number of tabs and post-it notes decorating the page fringes of different sections. One thing church liturgical publishers strive to be good at is usability, but they invariably fail due to the complex variabilities of basic liturgical practice. It keeps us all on out toes I suppose.

Come eleven o'clock, there were five of us, plus Salvatore the caretaker. It's a time of year when regular worshippers are more likley to be visiting elsewhere than visited. It struck me that the last Eucharist I celebrated was at College in Welsh, and the same number of people took part. This is just how it can be for minority language worshippers, and here in Sicily It's English that's the minority language. There was one newcomer however, a young US Navy medical corps nurse called Megan, stationed with her husband at the base near Catania. She had weekend time out and that enabled her to come and find the church. Apparently it's not unusual for St George's to welcome military personnel and their families during their three year tours of duty.

During the service, a few visitors poked their heads around the door but didn't stay to pray. Salvatore went out at the end to talk with a potential contractor offering a quite for the removal from the grounds of four palm trees, dying from some insect infestation. The church is looking at a bill of two thousand euros to pay to have them pulled out and taken away. It may be possible with a crane as trees of this kind have shallow roots. When dead they may fall over too. The one nearest the gate is in a state of disarray since it was windy last Friday, and several huge palm branches broke partly at the base and hung down pathetically, some over the path. I removed to a place of safety as many branches as I could reach. It looks awful but is less of a hazard than previously.

I cooked a chick pea curry for lunch, and experimented with a new method for steaming rice, as available pans were all too big for a small amount. A big supermarket trip would be useful in the coming week to acquire something extra to cook small amounts with. There are no pans with handles either. It's coming back to me from decades ago that this is a feature of the Italian kitchen. Or did I just make that up?

After spending an hour or so writing, I went out for a walk to enjoy being out among Sunday afternoon strollers. I went into the chapel of St Nicholas to look at the all year round Nativity scene set in its reproduction Sicilian hill village. I noticed it had been completed for dedication by one craftsman in 1983. The chapel also contains figures of St Nicholas, our Lady, and of Jesus in his Good Shepherd guise in conversation with a woman, whom I assume is meant to be one of the penitent women who came and ministered to him. Devotees could pay to light an electric votive candle at a couple of stands provided. 

While I was there a young couple with an infant came in, encourage to go in by nonna. The child was lifted up in silence by its mother to look. It reminded me of moments I witnessed outside St John's when passers by would stop and look at the outdoor Nativity in the tower garden. Altogether a timeless scene. By the time I returned home, the temperature was dropping and it was twilight, and before tea time.

Three weeks to winter solstice already.

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