Waugh and Post-Christmas Nostalgia

On a website called Blog of a Country Priest, Fr. John Corrigan of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ballarat in Australia recalls a passage from Brideshead Revisited as he takes down the Christmas tree in his parish church:

He took out the altar stone and put it in his bag; then he burned the wads of wool with the holy oil on them and threw the ash outside; he emptied the holy water stoup and blew out the lamp in the sanctuary and left the tabernacle open and empty, as though from now on it was always to be Good Friday. I suppose none of this makes any sense to you, Charles, poor agnostic. I stayed there till he was gone, and then, suddenly, there wasn’t any chapel there any more, just an oddly decorated room.

Fr. Corrigan rather sadly muses: “Suddenly it wasn’t Christmas anymore; just a dead tree.” The quote from Brideshead is where Cordelia Flyte explains to Charles Ryder that the chapel at Brideshead Castle has been decommissioned following her mother’s death (Penguin, pp. 211-12). A more upbeat conclusion might be offered. In the novel the chapel is restored to its religious function during the war thanks to the “blitzed R.C. padre whom Lady Julia gave a home to.” The chapel is made available to the troops, a “surprising lot” of whom use it (Penguin, p. 326). And no doubt there will be a new Christmas tree in the parish church next year.



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