Monday 6 April 2020

From the Horns of the Unicorns

Our Palm Sunday transmission from Warrington lost its sound just before the Epistle. Benedict Ambrose read the Epistle himself, and then we switched to the livestream from Santissima Trinità in Rome and rewound it to the Gospel. Eventually the Rome Mass disappeared, so we went back to Warrington, and they had their sound back.

Mass was very long this week, of course. I gave an inner cheer for the mention of animals in the prayers: we ask to be preserved from the lion's mouth and from the horns of the unicorns. Later a worm got a namecheck. Liturgical references to animals seem so much richer in Latin. Candlemas is enlivened by a shout-out to the bees.

Not knowing where to get fresh palms, we held palm crosses preserved from last year.

During the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto, I remembered, Christians were asked not to go to Holy Week services. I didn't agree but cringed when anyone coughed at the Good Friday liturgy. My feeling at the time was that the government didn't get that Catholics were supposed to participate in public worship, come hell or high water. There were 44  SARS deaths in Canada, and it turned out that SARS wasn't infectious before people had symptoms.

At some point during the Mass, I got distracted by funeral-planning thoughts. It occurred to me that if we both got very sick and shuffled off this mortal coil at the same time, nobody would know what to do. We do not have a single Catholic family member in the UK, and B.A. has only two family
members still alive. So after Mass I had an end-of-life-and-which-cemetery talk with B.A. and wrote a long email to our solicitor and to our priest. The Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh has suspended church funerals, but we are serene in the belief that our priest would give us a proper Mass for the Dead anyway, before or after consecrating our Protestant graves. I do not like the obscure and windswept field where Edinburgh "Arrr-sees" end up, so it's either the lovely local Church of Scotland cemetery with the Family of the Historical House or the snazzy one near the modern art galleries.

Walking back down the hill.
Our solicitor communicated doubt about the feasibility of these plans, so for our one government-mandated walk we climbed up to the local cemetery to check that there were still vacancies and that people have been buried there recently. It was a lovely warm day, and I thoroughly enjoyed this morbid outing. We noted that our potential future neighbours had colourfully decorated graves and rather original gravestones. One chap had a pint glass engraved on his. Another was most definitely a Hearts of Midlothian fan in life. Yet another awaits judgement under Masonic symbols. It's like a grassy extension of the local High Street. Meanwhile, the newest resident appeared last November, and there is lots of space for more.

My inner Goth, though, thought that despite the beautiful views, it would be more conveniens to be buried in the snazzy ancient cemetery in town so that friends, family and fans could more easily visit on future, post-plague holidays in Edinburgh. Listen, when better than during Holy Week to make such plans, eh?  Afterwards I had an Italian class over the phone, and when I told my teacher all about these plans in Italian, we had a good laugh and lesson on the periodo ipotetico.

We also talked about this letter upon which I reported here. It was very hard to translate, and in some places I gave up and used the Canetta-Mariani translation. However, it was very moving and my eyes had welled up when I first read "E anche per la mia mamma, preghiamo insieme" (literally, "And also for my mum we will pray together.").

I chose "mama" for my translation, however, because of another wet-eyed moment, years ago, when my niece's nanny pointed to an icon on the living-room wall and asked the infant Popcorn who that was.

"That's Jesus' Mama," Popcorn squeaked joyfully and I could have died at that moment, no complaints.

Socially distant man.
After my noisy, joyful telephone conversation about our hypothetical deaths, B.A. made a splendid Palm Sunday supper featuring duck. Then we added to the morbidity of the day by watching Contagion on Netflix. Last night Contagion was the fourth most popular Netflix film in the UK. Probably we're all trying to cope with fear by running it through the comforting confines of a film plot.

If you're the sort of person who never talks to the TV or computer screen and had been with us in our self-isolation, we would have driven you crazy. We informed the screen several times that this was all very prophetic and, yes, you're going to close the schools. We congratulated ourselves that so far there is no violent social unrest in the UK--although afterwards my mother told me that in England people have been burning down telephone masts in the belief that 5G has something to do with the Dread Germ.

Afterwards I saw that the British Prime Minister has been hospitalised, and that Scotland's Chief Medical Officer had resigned for having twice broken her own social-distancing protocols. So I prayed fervently for Boris Johnson (of all people) before I went to sleep.

I dreamed of bats, buying pastries, and running for a train to France I would almost certainly miss.

No comments:

Post a Comment