And Gutenberg Lived Here: The Stillness of Three O’clock, Electric Candles, And A Chorister’s Ration of Eggnog

One of the biggest things about celebrating Good Friday here in Gutenberg Land

is the extreme clash of opposites.

The ever-growing number of “free church” members-

anyone not Catholic or Lutheran,

the two state churches,

take things very very seriously on this day,

with groups overnighting in the church,

in the cold and the dark,

in remembrance of the watch at the grave.

Then there are those, especially in the “state churches” that fast.

Usually for forty days,

minus the Sundays, of course, which are free.

(And the day where you can’t get a parking spot at McD’s

to save your life.)

But six days per week is fasting.

Required if you are healthy.

From the moderate spinach and potatoes only-

green being the color from maundy Thursday,

the day when the vestments and paraments in the church are green,

and the mass, or service begins with the word maundicat,

to oversized

ie  up to six inches long,


used to hide the meat filling,

to those who truly fast,

ie no food or drinks,

but high procentage wine cream on noodles

allowed for those who have to do emergency work,


in some areas,

those wandering in the hills,

or working in the forests,

or even cutting pussywillow for the churches-

only allowed once per year –

by state permit-

are allowed a ration of pork schmalz-

rendered fat and cracklings

on a piece of bread,

with white cheese on top to hide the “little fib.”

Still, it’s not about the food.

Or even the traditions in the church,

as I keep trying to tell myself,

when faced with shatteringly somber,

and often almost scary music,

(these are the nails,

they drove into my Lord,

this is the hammer,

with which they drove the nails)

sung in a church draped all in black,

no book, cross,  or candles on the altar,

no organ,

(all of the above are “in Rome,” as they say here)

And then there is the matter of the small electric candles,

handed to the choristers

so they don’t break their necks on the winding

nose-bleed high,

up to a thousand year old

steps to the choir loft.

Where, coming around the corner and into the loft,

the “choristers’ portion” is dispensed-

two small chocolate coated waffle cups

filled with egg nog so high percentage

you could light them

if the candles ran out of batteries.

And this is the point where my husband and I have learned to sit instead

and pray silently.

(they have finally gotten used to the fact that we are non-drinkers-

part of MY religious background)


after the service,

we will wander over the half-grown vines in the vineyard near the church,

and listen to the sound of the wind in the grass on the high hills,

and think of all who lived here before we walked,

and of God, life, the universe, and everything that will come after,

and hope and pray that next year all of my family,

and my readers and their families,

are well,

and happy,

and able to take part

in the return

of the stillness

of three o’clock.

copyright  2018 All rights reserved

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