Let there be light
Three minutes before midnight and waiting for Midnight Mass to start at the Benedictine Basilica at Ottobeuren.
As some will know I was born to be Roman Catholic - my parents had no choice. My father baptised into the Church of England, my mother a Roman Catholic. Back in 1953 when they married, they were "forced" by the Catholic Church to sign a pledge to raise any children as Roman Catholics.
And so it was as a colonial expat, I was sent off to school in the UK at age 8 and for the next eleven years was taught in two independent Roman Catholic schools in Somerset, from 13 at a school run by Benedictine monks which meant daily services and sometimes two.
As far back as I can remember, I didn't "get" religion, any religion. I was a keen history pupil and that made it even worse. It was difficult to find any chapter of misery and suffering in any part of the world that wasn't done in the name of religion. And it wasn't just history, it was happening around me with the Northern Ireland conflict and Bloody Sunday happening just before I left.
However, I have to admit to being so weak that when the chips are really down, I will be there talking to a being somewhere above me and praying for help. I even feel jealous of those who truly believe. I stand back in amazement at the houses of worship created by often poor people in honour of their Gods. From Stonehenge to Aztec temples, Buddhist shrines, imposing glittering mosque, Lincoln Cathedral ..... what strength must these people get that I don't feel?
Ottobeuren Basilica is a true wonder of baroque architecture - regardless of one's view of the merits of this style, It has and still is used for musical concerts. One conductor, Leonard Bernstein, directed one such concert here in 1986 shortly after the Chernobyl disaster and gave a very interesting talk on the work he performed, Haydn's Creation. It is as relevant today as it was back then, Mankind's destruction of his own planet. (wait for the 2nd bit when the video fadés away for a second)
I went tonight on the spur of the moment. I had cooked a British (USA?) traditional Roast Turkey dinner to be served at 18:00, the traditional German kick-off time for Christmas. The whole bit with roast potatoes, stuffing, gravy, carrots, celery and in a token of Christmas goodwill, cooked a lovely braised Spitzkohl cabbage in a creamy sauce rather than Brussel Sprouts. Fellow Bliper Nogbad did Blip or Instagram this pointed cabbage some weeks ago, which it seems in the UK now has some very exotic foreign name that presumably makes it very expensive in restaurants - the name eludes me. Not sure if bread sauce is also served with turkey but I made one too - how can something so simple taste so wonderful?
After dining, clearing up the chaos, dissecting the meat into various tubs depending on the future leftover recipe types (+ cat & dog pots), setting the bones to boil up for some more stock, I had the sudden urge to go to Mass.
Within a minute of the service starting, I had tears in my eyes and not from the cold (-2°C outside at least). My thoughts were with others who weren't at my side, both living and dead. But also for a sense of guilt about not doing more to help others where I have received so much help and support. Standing there with the most impressive choir and organ filling the huge church with songs of praise and yet not all that far away homeless people on the streets and babies being bombed to death or maimed both physically and mentally for life. For what?
The Abbot talked about "humanity" in his sermon, how making "human mistakes" was quite natural but comparing it to inhumanity, calling on world leaders and those in positions of power and influence to assert humanity over inhumanity. I couldn't agree more but know people like Mrs May and Mr Trump, both holding the religious banner high, would simply nod and do the reverse in the pursuit of power and self-greed.
I'm glad I went - it did me good even if it still hasn't answered any of my questions. I bought a Bethlehem Peace candle and just hope it may do some tiny bit of good.
And here is Bernstein performing The Creation at Ottobeuren.
(A bit of warming news today, even if it is a 1/365 day event, The Hofbräuhaus in Munich opened it's doors as it does every year, to 800 homeless for at least one night of food, alcohol free drink, warmth and hopefully some laughter, served by volunteers. Some 9,000 people are reckoned to be without fixed addresses in Munich of which about 600 sleep rough - Tragic in such a wealthy country)