It’s Advent I, the start of the liturgical New Year, and about this time last year we wrote about what that entailed from the choir stalls. One of the questions that arose at the time was the root of the Asperges -the liturgical rite that justifies the priest in dousing all of us with water for reasons of penitence. Broadly speaking.
We still can’t say anything very definite about how that came about, though we think it might be an echo of the baptismal liturgy. We did discover though -and accordingly thought it might interest others to learn -that the Asperges lies at the root of our word ‘aspersions.’ It turns out that ‘to cast aspersions’ means not only ‘a false or damaging accusation,’ or even ‘the act of slandering or libeling’ but also -and this was new to us -‘to sprinkle with water.’ Who’d have guessed?
We do all this though, the water and the litanies, because in part, Advent is about renewal. It’s apocalyptic too, and comfortably gloomy, even penitential as evidenced by the Asperges. But ideally there’s also something expectant that underpins it as we look ahead to Christmas, something we were reminded of when all unlooked for an Advent Calendar dispensing tea arrived on our doorstep. Even the stand-offish Miss Marschallin-cat liked it. At least, she designed to sit with it, no small thing in her world.
Nothing is so wholesome and restorative as tea, not to us. Which is why as we watched the sun setting at 4 o’clock the other day, we looked across at that tea calendar and resolved to reinvigorate the Poetry and Cake Society, where tea and good poetry met, even if we can only manage this electronically, and even if it only lasts through Advent. It will be our effort to sustain light squibs and that too-emily forgotten hopefulness of Advent this year.
Now though we have to bolt. There is a summons to sing unmanageable Palestrina for an Advent Carol Service this evening and that means a rehearsal. We’ll be back soon with thoughts on tea and poetry.
2 thoughts on “Asperges Me, Advent and Tea”
Every time you start talking about Asperges, I think you’re going to refer to the Autism Spectrum Disorder – that being more prominent in my daily life than Latin names for parts of the liturgy – and have to readjust my thinking.
That’s a beautiful Advent calendar. Miss Marshallin doesn’t need to look so critical about it.
Love the idea of reinvigorating the Poetry and Cake Society, even electronically. To that end I post a beautiful poem by Wendell Berry sent to me by a friend:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
And now, I better go get a piece of cake!