The Lord's timing is incredible. Just as the OCeeker hit a sabbath in his P90X program, he took in a Mass and healing service at St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Catholic Church inOrange, where, with all the kneeling, sitting and standing, he got in some core work while his sins were washed away.
Indeed, while the OCeeker was confusing his muscles, one thing was clear: Father Neil Edlin, the parish's rector, kicks some mass!
Wednesday, April 11, 9 a.m.
The parish is tucked into a stucco building one block south of the Circle in Old Town.
The OCeeker arrived just as Edlin--a fine-looking (but married, ye lust-eyed Delilahs) young Father with dark brown eyes, and brown locks that framed a chiseled face--was reading from Acts 3:19, saying, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."
With only an elderly couple and one elderly woman in attendance (all white as snow), the OCeeker had plenty of room in which to repent one of about 20 wooden, brown pews. They were parted in the middle, atop a tile floor with red carpet in the aisle. The OCeeker sat in the back of the right set of pews, several rows behind the one old lady. The couple got their liturgy on, across from her.
Upon the white walls hung little emblems of the 14 stations of the cross, showing JesusChrist's condemnation to death, and all the stops along the way to his grave. One of the them was titled "Veronica", and dagnabbit, the OCeeker couldn't get that Elvis Costello song out of his pomade-anointed head.
Veronica isn't mentioned in the four gospels, but got some run in a second century version of "The Acts of Pilate" as the same gal who had a 12-year blood hemorrhage healed by Christ. Tradition says she attended Christ's trial, pleading his innocence, and that she wiped his face with a cloth, which was imprinted with his image. The cloth, known as "Veronica's Veil", was believed to have healing powers. No word if this inspired the Jesus-on-my-toast trend, but keep an eye out for it on eBay.
Edlin conducted the mass in his white, priestly garb, leading the flock of four through the service as he stood before eight candles, two of which were lit. Jesus hung out on a wooden cross above the candles. Stained glass windows flanked both sides of the stage, where Edlin worked his liturgical magic, preparing the communion elements, waving holy things, and leading the believers in the reading of confessions and creeds.
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The name Anglican means "of England", and the Anglican Church is referred to by some snarky saints as "Biblical Catholicism", with an emphasis on the "Book of Common Prayer", which was first produced in 1549. The church holds to the sacraments, and the ministry of bishops, deacons and priests. It often is portrayed as a hybrid of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, and today, the Anglican Communion consists of Anglican churches across the world, with the Church of England as the mothership.
Now, the OCeeker doesn't find himself in a parish of any kind unless someone has died or is getting married, which is pretty much the same thing. So, for a garden-variety Protestant who hasn't had to sit through years of Masses, the whole thing was a refreshing diversion from the let's-make-this-up-as-we-go-along worship services that are conducted by America's rock star pastors who spend the week chatting with God about what special secrets he wants to share with the congregation on Sunday.
Basically, we read from a prayer book, which told us when to kneel, when to stand, when to say "amen", what to say in response to Edlin and when to perform the sign of the cross or flash "West Side 4 Life". Edlin read from John 21, where Jesus appeared to the disciples for the third time after his resurrection, preparing a meal of fish and bread on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The congregation of three then mumbled something sanctified.
Then we read the Creed (standing); Edlin offered thanksgiving to God; we prayed for the universal church (kneeling); we gave the General Confession (kneeling); received absolution (kneeling); heard the Comfortable Words (kneeling); and consecrated ourselves for communion (kneeling). The OCeeker cheated a little, faking a kneel or two while really just leaning forward in the pew.
Just when he thought the Mass was going to go off without a hitch, the OCeeker heard, right before Edlin read "take, eat, this my body", a curious sound a'rumblin' from the old couple. Goodgawdamighty, it was that of flatulence, perhaps what a psalmist would describe as "a joyful noise unto the Lord." He couldn't make out who dealt it, but it was baritone in nature, so the OCeeker placed his tithe on the man.
While someone broke wind, Edlin never broke stride, all the way up to communion, when the OCeeker got to do some ballistic stretching, and "walked that aisle" like Ric Flair, kneeling at the altar and getting ready to be served up some forgiveness. Taking his place among the aged saints, the OCeeker received his wafer, and a blessing from Edlin, then slurped some holy hooch from a golden chalice as Edlin passed it from parishioner to parishioner.
(The OCeeker checked the chalice for backwash. No communion crumbs!)
We moseyed back to the pews, then gave The Thanksgiving (kneeling), followed by The Gloria (standing), followed by the Final Blessing (kneeling).
Then it was time for some unction for the sick. Unction junction, what's your function? Welp, that's anointing the sick with oil and praying for their healing. So up to the altar the OCeeker went again, kneeling amongst the aged saints once more.
"I anoint thee with oil," Edlin said, rubbing the healing balm upon the OCeeker's forehead.
When he placed his hand upon the OCeeker's head and commenced to beseeching, the OCeeker anointed Edlin's hand with some Suavecito pomade.
We then dawdled back to the pews for the Final Blessing (kneeling).
Afterward, Edlin introduced himself to the OCeeker (standing). He seems like a real nice guy!
St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Catholic Church meets every Sunday at 10 a.m. and every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at 205 S. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 532-2420; www.stmarymagdaleneacc.org
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