I am part of the venerated Anglican communion of the Church of England. I presume so at least because – though I am no longer a contributing member – to my knowledge I’ve never been formally banished from it. Nor have I have received a rejection letter in the mail or an email regarding embarrassing proceedings to be undertaken against me. In 1963 at fourteen years of age I was formally branded one of the fold while attending public school at St. Andrew’s College where we literally went to chapel “every day of the week and twice on Sundays”. As a consequence Sunday has always been a marked day of the week for me. Even the advent of retail shopping on Sunday never succeeded fully to withdraw me from the solemn wash upon the seventh day of the week. No doubt in later years my devotion during the rest of the week to the profane (and may I add parenthetically, rather demanding) practice of law and the vulgar enterprise of making money contributed to the welcome sustenance of the dignified nature of Sunday. It is a predominant feature which to this day I have yet to undo from my otherwise knotted being.
Long ago I – like so many others – evaporated from the ritual practice of religion. That meant no attendance at church for Matins or Vespers any day of the week. Nor did I persist in whatever remnant remained in my mind of pretending to involve a supernatural being in anything I did or perceived. There was no great battle or awakening for me. As far as I could tell religion was simply preposterous and best stated by Thomas Paine in his “Age of Reason” (1794) as a subterfuge. Nor do I seek to diminish the fluency of my conclusion by imposing some limitation upon my personal keenness of thought.
Whether out of habit or by unwitting absorption I continue to derive elevation from Sunday in spite of my irreverence. Granted I exercise a thread of decorum by limiting my music on Sunday to mostly liturgical choices. I have as a result discovered that much of the traditional Christian sacred music is not to be limited to Christmas or Easter. Liturgical music is a bit like jazz in that respect, just an option, whether for driving the car with the top down, or drinking a martini at the end of the day, or having a chat with an old friend. And make no mistake, each is sublime!
Bach, J S: St Matthew Passion, BWV244
Werner Güra (Evangelist), Johannes Weisser (Christus), Sunhae Im, Christina Roterberg (sopranos), Bernarda Fink, Marie-Claude Chappuis (altos), Topi Lehtipuu, Fabio Trümpy (tenors) & Konstantin Wolff, Artuu Kataja (basses)
Staats- und Domchor Berlin, RIAS Kammerchor & Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
The obvious conundrum is that while declining the staged performance of religion, there nonetheless persists a mystical or highly artistic attraction to Sunday and whatever strain of purgatory has been added to it by the Christian faith. Equally sustained however is my conviction that there is no need for an inductive leap from the magic of an azure summer sky to imperative of a Supreme Being.
Sunday is Everyman’s yolk, part of the miracle of Nature’s cycle and governing mathematics. It identifies the end of the week, the coming of another and meanwhile a moment for introspection. Today it was coincidentally occasion to refresh the bed clothes and bath sheets, another ceremony of cleansing but without intellectual absurdity. It once heralded prime rib, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.