Sunday, March 18, 2007

Vesper Hymn

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I used to think Sunday evening was the loneliest time of the week. Especially when I'd come back from Baltimore after spending much of the weekend hanging around there. That was when I was part of "the gang." Then there was a falling out within the ranks, and members of "the gang" started taking sides. Guess which side I was on. I still see a few of them at dances. It's all very cordial, but not the same. I see the photo collections on the web of parties where I used to get invited, but now I don't. It all seems so... junior high. Then you remember most of these people are in their fifties. That just ain't natural.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

There is one activity in "the folk scene" to which I've been consistently devoted for many years, and that's the Washington Folk Festival, sponsored annually by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. I've ben editor/designer of the program guide since 1992. The people with whom I work are absolutely terrific, if only because most of them act their age. There's rarely any politics involved that I can tell (and I can always tell), and the work is genuinely appreciated. I wish I could do more with the music end of it all, but Washington is a tough town. The same few people seem to dominate everything, and it tends to be very cliquish. If I were living back in Cincinnati, I'd be in a working band by now. Here, all the action seems to be in Maryland, especially in and around Takoma Park, where all the aging trust-fund hippies live.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Then there's my Scouting work. It's a different experience than when I was a boy. Not just because I'm an adult. There's more women, more lawyers (meaning more paperwork, although getting your membership card in a timely manner is too much to ask), and at least around here, more Mormons, which feels kinda weird. Back in the day, we used to wear our uniform to most activities. It was seen as a genuine piece of equipment, part of "doing Scouting." Now, boys who can afford $100 for gym shoes can't afford half that for the complete uniform, in one of the richest parts of the country. We had kids on relief back home, and they always managed to pull a second-hand set together. Give me a break.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

I can't give my Scouting activities the time I'd like. In fact, I can't give much of anything the time I'd like, because of school. My javascript class is the hardest I've ever had. Even though I've been an honor student, my midterm was a C+, and I'll be lucky to get that in the end. Thing is, if I get a D, it might not count toward graduation, in which case I'll be really pissed. All this work just to have to do it over, and that professor wants to dismiss class before the eleventh week (saved for make-up days, which are due this time) is up. I've been making some noise about that at department level. But if nothing else, it gave me a golden opportunity to get back up to speed on my coding skills.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

One place where my coding skills would pay off, is this page that you, gentle reader, are viewing now. As mwbh approaches its fifth anniversary, it is a time to take stock of things, and consider the direction in which it is going. Some other guy can wear his Faith on his sleeve, do little more than link clever remarks to someone else's news stories, and before you know it, he's the next big thing. There's obviously a demand for it, but it's a quick road to success, and in five years, I've seen this variety burn out. Besides, what could they possibly talk about on the radio for an hour? They always miss the really big stories too, like the parish golf tournament in Natchez, Mississippi. What are they thinking???

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

It would have been much better if the Pope had released Sacramentum Caritatis a week later -- like, say, this week -- so I would have been done with class (or it would have been done with me), and could have jumped right one it. Fortunately, I've read what everybody else has written, and there's enough to inspire a coherent analysis. Meanwhile, there was a counter-demonstration in Washington yesterday, because a bunch of Jane Fonda wannabes were there, and word on the street was they might have tried defacing memorials, as they have before. It's not that I'm a big fan of this particular war. I'm a big fan of guys who believe some things are worth dying for. Like, oh, my way of life. They deserve better. There's already talk of reinstating the draft. If the Bush girls don't go, I don't blame my son for not going. Not because he shouldn't go, but because it's less than honest if they don't have to. (Did that make sense?)

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

I was at the altar today, serving the Latin Mass at St Lawrence. My knees have been giving me problems, probably due to arthritis. It runs in the family, and it could be a lot worse. I suppose I should "offer it up," except that suffering doesn't do much for posture or decorum. There is a near-life-size crucifix above the altar. I stare at it much of the time I'm up there, if not to the point of missing a cue. I'm not exactly on the fast track to "master of ceremonies." Beats the hell outa me why, I probably don't look the part well enough. On the other hand, it's a relatively uncomplicated situation, free of the politics and game-playing that characterized life in the sacristy of that other place. Here, we serve the priest, not some twit with no life and a stick up his...

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Thankfully, "God alone sufficeth." That, and tomorrow is another day.

(Words: Henry F Lyte, 1847. Music: Eventide, William H Monk, 1861.)

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