Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Anglican Back to the Future

The events of Life lead to Death.    And yesterday El Gringo Viejo was required by an inner voice to make a quiet presence at the funeral and burial of a lady who was one of the shining jewels of the crown of McAllen, nay, unto the crown of South Texas.   She was a person who had an impact on this life and on many others.
      She was a teacher when teachers served a calling, and were not professionals.    She was a brilliant linguist.   She was a well-studied and truly learned person.   She always walked straight, sat straight, and talked straight.   Her physical posture, professional posture, and spiritual posture were always straight.
      She came from the colonial stock of Spanish settlers who entered into the area this part of Texas was known as Nuevo Santander during the latter third of the 1700s.   Some of her people came out of established places in Queretaro, others were relative late arrivals to the Spanish Colonial empire in the New World.    They were productive people.   They were tested by fire, drought, Indian raids, wars, freezes, hurricanes, and the common challenges of living in a thorny wilderness.
      It was known among the Anglos that she was one of the "Royal Land Grant People".    About fifty percent of the people in and around the Brownsville, McAllen, Rio Grande City, and Roma area who were Spanish surnamed had either total or partial ancestry into that group in those days.   To this day, there are many of such people who still maintain most or at least significant portions of the land grants that came out of Madrid during the Spanish Colonial period.
     Although she had this blue-blood background, she was also humble person who always sought to assist others or contribute to various causes, such as the anti-polio efforts of the late 1940s - early 1950s.   Many other causes were helped by her efforts.  She was also a dutiful and competent wife, mother, and neighbour.

     She had been born into the Roman Catholic Church, and during the latter half of her life she had drifted into the Episcopal environs, teaching at St. Alban's (Episcopal) School in Harlingen and Saint John's (Episcopal) School in McAllen.  It is not known if she became an Episcopalian, or ceased being a Roman communicant because among Anglicans that is not really important.   Any person baptised in Christ can come to the communion rail.   It is perhaps better to, at some time or another , seek confirmation into the Anglican Communion, but for many Orthodox, Romans, and traditionalists, the Episcopal Church offered a refuge of constancy until about 30 years ago.

     We were not surprised recently, for instance, when a prominent Roman Catholic family whose children had attended Saint John's School decided to have a large, formal wedding at Saint John's.   It was quite a shindig.   The flowers alone were stunning and represented a minor fortune, which they left for Mass for the following Sunday.   The vases were crystal and huge, set at the aisle edge of each pew.  They left those to the Church, as well. There was all the typical falderah of a fancy Mexican wedding; the lasso, the aras, Ave Maria, the godfather of this and the godfather of that, the something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence for her shoe.   The celebrant was the same priest who is rector of Saint John's Episcopal.   It was a complete clash and fusion of English Anglicism and Spanish Romanism.   All very, very pleasant and unforced.

     In any regard, the funeral was typically Episcopal.   Short...about 25 minutes.   Certain prayers, the collect, the Epistle, a sermon of quiet words and recognitions.   There is no happy joking or rocking anthems....just the organist and a soloist who did a pleasant rendition of Ave Maria....the organist plays a recessional,  Ode to Joy, as the crucifrix and the casket leave the sanctuary.    The casket was never opened.  It was covered by a beautiful, luxurious tapestry, it was quiet.   The funeral home was august, correct, professional, and absolutely dignified in its administration of its events and responsibilities.   About 100 people waited for about 20 family members and closest friends to followed the priest out.....all boarded up, and drove slowly to the very elegant and presentable Roselawn Cemetery in McAllen.
      But herein is the purpose of the Gringo Viejo's observation.   All of this prologue is written with a bit of trepidation.   This event was for the family of the one who was being buried from Saint John's, not for me.   But what made it perfect for what is necessarily a sad event  was that the service had reverted to the ancient book, the Old English as it is found in the now demised 1928 Book of Common Prayer (which was little changed from the original as published and authorised in America in 1790, and in England in 1662).   Much of that Book was based upon the first formations of the Prayer Book in English that was developed during the turmoil of the 1550s.    It's good to know that the Holy Spirit is actually the wine that is consecrated for the Eucharist, and that there is still a Holy Ghost who is in charge of mysteriously causing Holy Mysteries and the suspension of normal natural law.

     The losing of a nearly 100 year old secular saint is not pleasant, but the service also allowed it to not be an unpleasant thing by invoking the eloquence of the ancient words.