Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

The Splendor of Saint Peter and Paul

The Setting Street

The Flaneur resumes his pilgrimage
to mock-Renaissance North Beach,
The abundanza of Columbus avenue

How about an imaginary double-decker bus ride
to a Christmas Candyland?

 Some fresh-ground black pepper on some fresh pasta?
Life al-dente under a Tuscan sun

 Maybe a masterfully-made coffee in a colorfield cafe

 We're almost there,
As free from postal code envy as little Lorde

The Church Itself

 These doors lead to the awesome,
Don't neglect the holy water,
The sign of the cross

Self-evidently epic,
The don't even imagine front altars like they used to, 

 This creche awaits the entire Holy Family,
A starry backdrop for exquisite Italian fabrications

 The Advent wreath,
A candle for every week 
Until Christmas on earth

 Jesus the Sower and his cousin John
(Note hobbity feet)

 Christ knocking at the door,
Jesus the Good Shepherd

The Sacred Sculpture Grotto

 Our Lady of Lourdes,
John the Baptist in three-dimensions

 Mary the Queen of Heaven,
Saint Theresa meets her in Eternity,
Remember that elderly church-lady
Who 'touched-up' a fresco in Spain last year?

A saintly nun and poinsettias
At the foot of the Cross

Christ in a saint's heart,
A rather large club in his hand

The Apotheosis

 The Annunciation
My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
The Magnificat,

 The Nativity in Bethlehem,
Attended by angels and shepherds
Under the wandering star

Philip Lamantia, a poet I knew for over twenty-five years, was Italian by birth, a native of San Francisco, and a life-long resident of North Beach. In our conversations about my reconciliation and what was essentially his conversion, he had much praise for the Shrine of St Francis where he attended Mass. When I told him I also loved Mass there and occasionally found myself at Mass at St Peter and Paul as well.  He was somewhat incredulous that I could get in the spirit there; it was too grandiose and it represented something other than what he had found at the Shrine. I understood his point to an extent but the basic epiphany of the Mass is always available to me and while I'm not just an "aesthetic Catholic," I do maintain a very avid appreciation for the traditional beauty of churches such as St Peter and Paul as old-fashioned as it may seem. I am spellbound when I contemplate the symbology of the artifacts as well as of the ritual.
That said even I was a little tenuous when I traveled over to North Beach from Berkeley one Christmas day and went into Mass at St Peter and Paul. I had already been to midnight Mass and received Communion at St Albert's College but I was early for an invitation to someone's pad on Telegraph Hill who might not enjoy an early-bird showing up, so I went to Christmas Mass again. The place was packed, largely by families with kids. Some of them held balloons on strings floating in the sacred space. Behavior in general bespoke folks who went to Mass on Christmas and Christmas only. The priest soldiered on without altar boys or any other assistance. Then when Communion time came, he asked for several individuals to join him in distributing the hosts.
I'm old school Catholic and really prefer to receive the sacrament directly from a priest myself. But when no one else volunteered I knew I had to do it. Nervous and unprepared, I started off by saying "God bless you," as I handed over a host, rather than the proper, "The Body of Christ." A girl laughed but I got through it and actually heard my correct line after a while and began to say, "The Body of Christ," and tried to be "the perfect image of a priest."*

A Christmas blessing to all from the Flaneur

* This phrase occurs in both Jack Kerouac's novel Desolation Angels and in Bob Dylan's epic song "Desolation Row," both of which were published in 1965. Kerouac used it to describe his friend and colleague, Philip Lamantia. Dylan copped the words and a number of others from Jack's book.

22 December 2014

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