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Two weekends ago after we put away our holiday decorations the coffee table in the living room was looking a bit puny— despite the fact that I keep a crystal bowl filled with jingle bells on this table all year round. [The jingle bells are from my childhood. Remind me sometime to tell you the story of how they came to mean so much to me.] Clearly the table needed something more on it, but I was all out of ideas.
Then a few days ago while I was shopping at the grocery store I saw a small houseplant of ivy for sale. It looked very healthy so I bought it, brought it home and transplanted it into the first pot that I found in the garage. However, once I got the pot inside the house I realized that it was too small for this table and that it needed some height. So I pulled some gardening books from the adjacent bookshelves and placed the potted ivy on top of the books.
Still I wanted something more on the table, so I took the plain vanilla candle that had been in the screened-in porch all summer/fall, brought it inside and put it on the table. Suddenly, I had a pretty look for the coffee table. Very coordinated & cheerful.
Or so I thought at first….
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It wasn’t until the next day when I lighted the candle and sat down in the living room to read a book that it dawned on me that I’d set up a tableau that amounted to the Roman Catholic Church’s time-honored excommunication ceremony.
“The bell represented the public character of the act, the book the authority of the words spoken by the presiding bishop. The candle was believed to symbolize the possibility that the ban might be lifted by the repentance and amendment of its victim. The ceremony was performed in some conspicuous place….”
After I stopped laughing at myself I got worried that maybe I’d really offended Someone– or some System– or some Being. You know how I like to live a harmonious life. So I did a bit of research about how one gets himself or herself excommunicated, and discovered to my relief that:
“The purpose of excommunication isn’t to allow you to quit or make a political statement or pursue some other private agenda. It’s to allow the church to throw you out. If you’re already out — that is, if you don’t partake of the sacraments or otherwise participate in Catholic activities… — excommunication is likely to strike church authorities as a waste of good holy water.”
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Finding out that I couldn’t excommunicate myself while decorating a coffee table has set my mind to rest about this situation. Also, considering that I’m not Catholic I figure that the authorities won’t want to waste holy water on me either.
Of course, I have to admit that upon closer self-examination during this situation, I’ve come to realize that as a [lapsed] Presbyterian I really need not worry about how I’ve inadvertently offended the Roman Catholic Church, as much as the fact that I rarely go to church. Which I suspect is going to reflect more poorly on my character when I reach the Pearly Gates– than my accidental excommunication-themed decorating tableau. 🙂