The Victorians with their years and half years and full- and half-, and crape and lavender and armbands -- they understood something about the human heart and the irrationality of mourning and the consequent need for decision-free ritual.
At daily Mass a community builds up and there are people whom one, in a sense, knows very well indeed, but whose names, certainly their surnames at least, remain a complete mystery.
A woman who sat next to me for, yes, years, now, and next to my Mother for many more years before that asked how she was doing. I was only able to get the words out to tell he because in the moment it obviously hurt her more to hear it, than it did for me to speak it, (the shock to her, to see.)
A name was announced by a visiting priest at weekday Mass, and I asked, that isn't...? of the de facto sacristan, the keeper of lists of intentions for the daily Rosaries, the scrounger-up of last minute readers, the one who understands the quirks of the thermostat, you know.....the guy who knows.
No, no, not her.
But at Mass yesterday morning, tucked into a hymnal by some mourner was the program for her funeral, and indeed it was she.
Sometimes it is fortunate that Himself can be a bit oblivious, especially early in the morning, because I could not have found, still can't find the words to explain why the news devastated me.
But it did.
I am so grateful for the Liturgy sometimes, its all-encompassing, inclusivity of the range of human emotions and needs and manners of prayer.
I get so angry at people who want to make it All-Peppy- All-Happy-All-the-Time.
It is not just the ceremonial embodiment of Both/And, but of Both/And/And/And/And.
Like the Victorian etiquette mavens, the Church knows the helplessness of the human heart sometimes, and the value of a ritual that frees of us the burden of making decisions.
The Mass knows what we need when we ourselves do not.
(Who knew they used to put babies in mourning armbands?)