O Come, All Ye Faithful

St. Giles, Edinburgh (2009)

Footsteps from the bars and porn shops on Colfax, Transcendence showed up unannounced today on the 1300 block of Washington St.

Pleasantly warm with stunning clear blue skies, it was a lovely day, and a fine one at that to celebrate mothers, although this was inconsequential to the event. The parking lot was split between Argonaut Liquor’s morning worshippers and St. John’s Cathedral’s customers looking for a snort of religion, I being among the later. Forty-five minutes before the service most of the pews were filled and extra chairs at the end of each row were being snatched up quickly. The woman in the pew ahead of me read the Sunday Denver Post to pass the time. A young man behind me talked about his recent new start in Los Angeles. In the end it was a standing room only crowd.

Like other species of males, it was the men who shone brightest in full Highland dress, complete with kilts and sporrans. Some wore sash-like fly plaids and ornate brooches. A few of the more modest types stuck to plaid ties. It was a colorful spectacle, one of the few times the congregation outpaced embroidered vestment-wearing clergy.

St. Giles, Edinburgh

Light showing through the upper stained glass windows created a kaleidoscope effect in the Gothic interior. The atmosphere was as bubbly as that for a wedding.

About 600 or so people stood almost at the same moment. The procession began down the nave. Rather than a stately hymn with choir and organ, the Denver and District Pipe Band played “Scotland the Brave.”

Without thought or care, I cried. Not just misty eyes, like when I hear the Purdue fight song. This was the real deal: tears down the cheek, quivering lips, running nose. It’s the same experience when I stand in a space consecrated to God, in the company of my spiritual brothers and sisters and what seems like the whole of the heavenly realm, singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” at Christmas or “Lift High The Cross” on Easter.

That processional was only a prelude, with time during the opening collects and sermon to wipe my eyes and stop the running nose, only for the mess to begin again at a more profound and profuse way when the pipes and the cathedral’s glorious organ played “Highland Cathedral.” As I write, I listen to a version on an old Amy Grant Christmas CD; crying again. (There’s a YouTube clip from Scottish Television if you’d like to hear the song.)

Like a good many people in the United States, I’m a mutt mix of English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish heritage. Despite the good Welsh surname of Powell, it’s the Scots who have spoken to me loudest through the generations. I don’t have to be in Aberdeen, Glasgow or Edinburgh to feel their influence and continued presence, although I feel a special affinity for Scotland. Today it was as if the great cloud of our Scottish ancestors worshipped with us, an unsuspecting congregation.

As one who has learned about the power of generational healing by training and experience, today I learned the wonder — the sheer wonder — of standing among others to honor and bless our ancestors before God. It was as if the whole company of heaven joined the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan celebration. “We are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom.” Today the blessed company of faithful, those in body and those in spirit, rejoiced in this enduring communion.

The Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan Prayer of Blessing:
For all those in ages past who have borne tartans as symbols of their commitment to one another and who have bequeathed to their descendants a sound heritage, we give God thanks; and we ask God’s blessing upon these Tartans, that they may ever be worn in peace, and upon us, that God’s peace may rule our hearts and lives ….”

© Kimberly Powell and Via Peregrini, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of photos, images, text and all other material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kimberly Powell and Via Peregrini with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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