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.