A message from Mother Ellen Brauza

Highs, lows, and other considerations

(from her blog)


St. Andrew’s has long been known for high-church liturgy. We have an Anglo-Catholic heritage that we’re still learning to live into, and probably always will be. The colour, (vestments, icons, polychromed statuary,) the sound, (chant, bells, the best music we can manage,) even the aromas, (incense and beeswax will always smell like CHURCH to me,) are wonderful. The senses delight, and our worship of God the Most High feeds us as well. But sometimes there are other ways.

For example, low mass — which means no smoke, no music, and generally no bells. It’s what we do at 8:00 am on Sundays, and it’s generally relaxed and intimate. It’s also what we did last night in celebration of the Feast of the Holy Cross. The setting: our tiny Lady Chapel. There were 10 of us, including myself and Jason, our deacon. (We share him with the Cathedral, which is his principal gig, but I still dare to consider him OURS — but that’s a story for another time.)

Back to last night. In that tiny room, there was no need to use my church voice, which has to reach to the back of quite a large room. Maybe that’s why it all felt so incredibly tender and sweet. Maybe there was more to it than that.

Maybe it was the feast itself. Does anyone else find the Love Supreme expressed on the Cross so overwhelming? If I were to live for centuries, I don’t think I could ever UNDERSTAND that love, but I continue to be absolutely floored by it. We human creatures manage to do so much to hurt and wreck the world, ourselves, and one another, and God’s answer to that is not fury and smiting, but the self-sacrifice that IS the Cross. Because lest we forget, that’s who died there — not just some itinerant rabbi, but God Incarnate.

Overwhelming. So much so that I totally forgot the ending of my own homily, and had to just end it abruptly, go to my chair, swallow hard, and begin the Creed.

I said at the beginning that we’re learning how to live into our Anglo-Catholic identity. Here’s what it comes down to: living that Cross-love in the world, amid the pain and anguish that surrounds us. There’s a reason why those early Tractarians sang their high masses in the slums of London. As we learn to go out from our worship to the poverty of Buffalo, and to embrace those poor as they kneel beside us, we will become truly Anglo-Catholic — even if we run out of incense.