Monday, April 18, 2011

The Palms

Ah, Palm Sunday. Even though I live across the street from St. Michael's Episcopal, I didn't see a single palm anywhere. And no kids at all. Just older folks. If I lived a couple of blocks south, over by St. Michael's RC, maybe there would be a few kids with palms. When I was young, the Methodist Church once passed them out to both the Adult and the Youth choir before the start of the service. We got to make an entrance in robes, waving palm leaves around. (Hey, that was pretty heady stuff for Methodists.) At least I think that was real and not an edited memory.

Bethesda Methodist Youth Choir, Easter time 1958.
(Click to enlarge)

In case you're curious - there I am! I was 7 years old.

Back to St Michael for a minute. Why does Brattleboro have two churches named for Saint Michael? I don't know. I wonder if they do, or which came first. It's kinda the story of Brattleboro in a way. One shop moves in and is successful. Another shop with a similar theme moves in. The area is able to sustain one, but two simply split the business between them. Eventually, they both cease to attract customers and go out of business. So far, the balance here seems okay, except that at some point around the 1920s or 30s, the Episcopal church moved a few blocks north out to the edge of what was then town. I've been to both churches' websites and neither mentions their history, nor is their comment about St. Mikey. Hmm, I wonder if that was blasphemy? I should tread carefully here - Saint Michael is the biggie in the Archangel biz, after all.
Saint Michael, Archangel.
St. Mike shows up in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Ya know how there is a Prince of Darkness? Well, Michael is the Prince of Light. Captain of the Host of the Lord. On at least one occasion, Michael stood in for the Big Guy. Michael is the angel of forbearance and mercy. He taught Adam the skill of farming. He passed the tablets of Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.. He rescued Abraham from the fiery furnace he'd been thrown into by Nimrod. It was Michael who led Lot and his family out of Sodom. Michael is in charge of the souls of the just, and it is he who will kill the Antichrist. He's protector of this that and the other thing, and if that's not enough to show you how seriously important he is, well, he's the head of The Watchers. (The Watchers were fallen angels who numbered about 200 and were known as the Grigori.)

My cousin Patricia with palm, and Easter Eggs
waiting to be hard boiled and colored, 1962.
So. Palm Sunday. Weeks, months, have been spent in preparations. Dad had already taken my brother and myself to Spinozi's in Woodstown to get new Sunday's best suits. Oh, God, fitted clothes (heavy sigh).Why 'Sunday's Best"? I mean, it's not like we had extras hanging around. 

Anyway, the full Church choir, adults and youth, entered in procession singing Jean-Baptiste Faure's 'The Palms'. The Esty pipe organ's sound would swell with each step we took down the aisle; "O'er all the way green  palms and blossoms gay (no comment), are strewn this day in festive preparation. When Jesus comes to take our sins away, ev'n now the throng to welcome Him prepare! Join All and sing His name Devine, let ev'ry voice resound with united acclimation, Hosanna! Praise be the Lord! Bless Him who cometh to bring us salvation!" Geez. I can still recall it all. Our church had an all wood interior. Parishioners would join in singing from a balcony as well as the church floor. The sound would reverberate leaving an almost a constant tone hanging in the air. To hear it was to be it, a level of universal consciousness. And may the Force be with you, too.
Palm Sunday, 1962. Cousin Patricia was 3. I was 11.

1 comment:

Austan said...

Awww, sweet. We sang The Palms too, but the Episcopal chorus went:
"Join All and sing! His name Declare! Let ev'ry voice resound with a-a-adoration, Hosanna! Praise be the Lord! Bless Him who cometh to bring us salvation!" Good memories. We gotta get together and sing hymns and freak everyone out again. Maybe Memorial Day. ;)