Ireland’s national TV station is to give up on its traditional Angelus after 53 years. It will be replaced by videos showcasing aspiring filmmakers and artists of all faiths and none.
I suppose 50 years is barely the length of a sneeze in the history of Christianity, but it’s all part of the same trend. Let’s get rid of the Cult Leader, JC —no, not Jeremy Corbyn —and all his deluded, mindless, self-righteous followers. I won’t list any more of the terms with which Christians are described these days on line. Given how few of us there are it makes you wonder what on earth they are afraid of. When Isis beheads Christians I’m not surprised; after all they behead the wrong kind of Muslims, too. But I am amazed by the vitriol and verbal beheading of Christians that goes on on-line. I wonder why they bother. But then Richard Dawkins advertised There is No God all over a London bus, which seemed positively bizarre.
I was going to muse here about the Angelus anyway, having read a nice little snippet on another blog—that of “Paddy with his words of will.” Last week he posted a piece which someone who likes what he says had translated for him from the Irish.
“They’re let off the leash again. They’ve been let out again. Moving through the world in order to condemn freedom. The sensitive liberals who would censor the raindrops. These tough people who are ‘wounded’, who become arrogant if a syllable is mentioned which is not sweet to their ears. Certainly not sweet to their ears sweet is the ding-dong of the Angelus which deafens them for a full two minutes a day.”
I remember the Angelus in Cambridge. It sounded at midday every day from Little St Mary’s church and even to a non Catholic it was a welcome and comforting sound. It’s one of the things I appreciate whenever I am travelling through France. It always brings to mind the painting by Jean-Baptist Millet; the one with a couple in a wide field with a church spire in the distance, pausing for prayer in the midst of their labours.
Traditionally, the bells were sounded not just at midday but also at 9.00 am and 6.00 pm, and the Angelus prayerwas said. If you also said a prayer when you woke up, probably Our Father, and another, perhaps a brief thank you, God, before you went to sleep that would have been your 5 a day—a bit like the Muslim call to prayer five times a day.
I wonder if the Little St Mary’s Angelus has been silenced. The church does stand in the midst of many colleges whose students could be disturbed or offended by the noise. I wonder what Thomas Gray would have thought—the poet of the Elegy. His college window in Peterhouse overlooked the churchyard and presumably he liked the noise, not only of the curfew that ‘tolled the knell of passing day’, but also ‘the pealing anthem’ that ‘swells the note of praise’, both of which he could have heard from his window.
Many moons ago I worked in an office overlooking the Civic Centre in Southampton. Every four hours the bells in the clock tower played the tune of Isaac Watt’s hymn, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.” They were silenced last year for storm damage to be repaired; I do hope they are back singing away again. Perhaps they are safe because so few people know the words of the hymn.
My husband, a Calvinistic Methodist/Quaker wanted to know why the Angelus. I came up with three reasons, one of which is still relevant today. To tell the time, especially lunch time, in watchless ages; because it’s a comforting noise, reassuring you that the day is progressing as it should; and a time to pause—time for a prayer or time for a three minute Mindfulness session. That’s always supposing you can hear it above the noise through your ear-phones.