have written once before about the channel ‘Fashion TV’. A friend of mine told me recently that many people sort of ‘surf past’ it and watch the channel for shorts bursts at a time. I am one of them.
Recently, in one on my passes, I noticed that the designer had done a huge amount in changing the design of the catwalk, with smoke and a different design and so on. I heard myself saying “For heaven’s sake. What is all this decoration? It’s about the clothes after all. Can’t we go back to the simplicity of just black background, and a straight ‘runway’ and the clothes? In the future, when robots become more like humans, we could even replace the catwalk models with lifelike robots, further to enhance the clothes. That might not be such a bad thing, because then the exploitation of young women for the sake of fashion will end.
This sparked my internal interest, because I am always making comparisons between my attitude to the ‘liturgy’ of the catwalk, and the ‘liturgy’ of the Eucharist. I am one of those people who think that there can be some things done to make the power of the Eucharist come alive, through decoration, or through thinking through the different parts of the Eucharist, with a view to seeing how they might be made more powerful.
So here I am, complaining about the same thing, when it comes to the ‘liturgy’ of the runway! What is going on?
Well the first thing to say is that my journey is part of a process, and so at different times, I am at different places, within the process. There is an old saying ‘If you want to get to the city of simplicity, you have to go by way of the village of complexity!’
So that describes me. I have been through phases of ‘complexity’ in thinking about the Eucharist, but now, at bottom, I believe in its structure to do what it says: to bring us into encounter (communion) with our god through Word and Sacrament. This is a simple structure, but it is simple in the way that a scalpel is ‘simple’: simple but mightily effective.
So I don’t mind if the Eucharist is said, or sung or with few or many people. What is important is that I participate in it with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. Like my desire for a return to simplicity on the catwalk, I can also rejoice in the simplicity of the Eucharist.
But the other thing about being in process, or on a journey is that for each group, the place on the journey changes, and the ‘look’ of what is being constructed will be different.
Once we had some members of the congregation who complained about what we were doing. On the particular Sunday that they came we were celebrating one of our ‘experimental’ Eucharists, where we were trying to deepen our participation by focusing on just one part of the liturgy. They used to infrequently, so were not aware of this process. Second, it was a day when the children were particularly noisy, because their normal carer was not there that Sunday. Had they come on other Sundays, the children would have been quieter. So a number of things that were new, or annoying to them came together on one day, which caused them to complain.
I think that had they too been part of the process that we were engaged in, their response might have been different.
We experienced something similar when ‘The Peace’ was introduced into the Eucharist. People complained about being brought into contact with their neighbours, when they wanted to be in contact with God. But those who had been part of the process of liturgical reform of the 1960s and 1970s understood that in Church, one cannot have communion with the ‘Body of Christ’ in Bread and Wine, without also having communion with the Body of Christ in the members of the congregation.
The other thing about processes is that they moistly benefit the participants. A fashion show is just that, a ‘show’. It is designed to be seen. A Eucharist is not designed to be ‘seen’ but is a participatory celebration. A Eucharist is not meant to be ‘visited’ or ‘seen’ or even just ‘heard’ (as some people talk about ‘hearing mass’) A Eucharist is a participatory celebration. How it goes depends upon those who participate being part of the preparation. It depends upon those who participate knowing their lines, and saying them It depends upon the presence of the Spirit, to co-ordinate the different contributions of each member of the body into one harmonious offering of thanks and praise to God. This is clear when those who come to our weekly Gospel Reflections say that their listening to the sermon is better for having explored it earlier in the week.
This week I have been made aware of my change in attitude to the presentation of clothes in Fashion TV. This has focused for me too the things that I value about the Eucharist. But it has also focussed for me something about the need for us all to be participants in every aspect of the Eucharist, and not just watchers (spiritual consumers) of a religious ‘show.’