Hallo again to all.
Do you remember that time-honoured rhyme that accompanies the children's circle game? At the sound of 'all fall down' one collapsed in a heap on the ground.
Some say the rhyme's origin is in the Middle Ages and the plague: posies carried in a vain attempt to ward off the fatal plague, 'falling down' indicating sudden death. The birth of that chant may be mysterious, but we've all heard it. And many of us played the game as children.
There's a kind of calendrical circle game of the church that we all play together. From the mysteriousness of Advent Sunday, with its solemn warnings and waitings, through the shiny joy of Christmastide and Epiphany, into the sombre and ashy rhythm of Lent, punctuated at the end by the apparent full stop of Good Friday, across to the astonishment and sharp surprise of each Easter morning, the after-shimmer of Ascension Day, the burst of energy that is Pentecost, the love song that is Trinity, then into the procession of Sundays-after, finally to All Saints Day, marking the close of the circle in the company of the living and the blessed dead . . . the year moves through its daily round.
But so often circles are used to indicate what is pointless, futile. 'He's going round in circles'. Circling in a plane over an airport, not getting anywhere. The circular file.
We believe, if we are Christian, that Our Lord has broken the endless cycle of meaningless birth and death. We're a part of a circle whose circumference is nowhere, whose centre is everywhere, as St Augustine has it. As we take our part in the liturgical year, assume our places in the dance, we become part of the meaning.
Later this week, on Ash Wednesday, we'll receive our smudge
of ash and our reminder of mortality. We all fall down. And
it will be Lent.
But our circle game isn't pointless. The circle is the point.
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