Sunday, 25 March 2012

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb

There was snow on the ground last month. On 3rd March I went out with a friend for a 'stroll' around Dorchester Abbey, we strolled from the car to the Church to the pub. It was cold even with a coat. In the pub we were grateful for the warmth of a hearty steak and kidney pudding and a glass of red wine. Those days seem to be passing now, and the old saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb rings true. 

On that cold day I spent a significant period of time completely arrested by the frescos in Dorchester. I had never seen anything like them before. The crucifixion, uncovered from behind white washed plaster, made me stop and stare. How can artists from so long ago so accurately capture such a scene? John the beloved looks away from Christ, unable to bear the moment. Mary exchanges an emotional and compassionate look with her son. Perhaps it recalls that moment from John 19: 26:  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. It had me spellbound.

Today, with the sun shining and the birds singing, marks the beginning of Passiontide. The statues and images of Christ, Our Lady and the saints have been veiled in Church. I always miss them when they go. The Church begins the journey to Jerusalem, setting its face for the intensity of the Holy Week liturgies: Palm Sunday (Christ welcomed as the Messiah by the crowds), the stories of Christ cleansing the temple (Monday),  cursing the fig tree (Tuesday), and teaching in Jerusalem until Judas agrees to betray him (Wednesday); the Last Supper, the arrest in Gethsemane (Thursday) and the trials and crucifixion (Friday). The lamb going out. 

I love all these services with all their special music and symbolism, the washing of the feet, the creeping to the cross, each service a sensorial suite through which to explore and live out the Gospel. But, you know what I look forward to most? The bells. The Gloria bells that ring out the news of the resurrection at the Easter vigil. And the fire. The fire that crackles and burns outside the church announces to everyone that the lamb that went out returns. The fire from which light comes back into the Church in the best candlelit service of the year. Yes, I am looking forward to that. And, if the weather holds, the annual battle to light a blessed bonfire might be easier this year. :-)

Of course, I have to plan the Easter Feast for Sunday 8th April yet. Lamb is traditional, obviously, but sometimes I like to break the mould. I wonder what it will be this year? While you're waiting, how about a fast friendly dish for the last days of Lent?

Mussels in White Wine

(3 - 4 Hungry People)

2 lbs. mussels
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped flat parsley

Fill a sink 1/2 full of cold water. Add the mussels and toss them around. Pull the beards and scrape off any barnacles from each mussel (inspecting them to make sure that they are tightly closed). Discard any bad mussels. Keep the cleaned mussels out of the water in the refrigerator until ready for use. Do not keep them more that a few hours after washing.

Chop the shallots and parsley.
Put the shallots and white wine into a large stainless steel pot. Add the mussels and cover. Steam them over high heat until the mussels have opened. Shake the pot to be sure that all the mussels are cooked.
Put the mussels into a large bowl. Decant the mussel liquor into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Add the butter and chopped parsley.
Pour this sauce over the mussels and serve immediately with fresh, crusty bread and plenty of white wine. Yum. 

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