The Christmas cards keep coming in the post day after day also eCards from some further afield, with news of family and old friends. I was delighted to learn that a former colleague from St Paul's days, Bernice Broggio, did a month's chaplaincy duty in Taormina this year, and read the blog written while I was there in December 2012. She was able to travel around and saw more of Sicily than we did. For me it was more of a long and valued retreat, in a place of great beauty, with not quite enough to do.
Talking of mail, there was one of those non-delivery notices for a 'signed for' package addressed to Clare waiting for us when we got back yesterday. I drove to the main sorting office to collect it, and despite presenting my driving license to identify myself, was not given the package because it was addressed to Clare. Without presenting her i/d or some other form of authorisation, the Post Office Terms and Conditions small print said it couldn't be handed over. Previously, this has been ignored by workers less conscientious. I noticed the man in front of me in the growing queue got the same treatment.
How many others I wondered would be obliged to go away and come back again to collect. It took me half an hour in slow moving traffic to make the ten minute journey. For others, not living so close to the main sorting office, it would have taken that much longer to get there and be obliged to make a double trip. Doubtless many of those 'signed for' packages would be a range of small mail order gifts, as was Clare's, who later returned with me to collect Rhiannon's present. How much does this extra traffic to and from the sorting office add to seasonal traffic congestion, waste of fuel and pollution, waste of people's time? Surely there must be a better solution to ensuring goods are delivered as intended by senders. The Post Office is meant to be a service to people, not a tyranny.
Sad to say, wherever I've been on my travels, queues to get served in Post Offices have been long, despite countries having local mailbox services in local Post Office branches, and valiant efforts to manage more queuing customers than the institution has capacity for at any time. Competing parcel delivery services do somewhat better with internet tracking services often available, but there's still room for effective innovation in this area of common life, to make home deliveries more predictable. Ah well, while I was out and about, I was at least able to get some food shopping done, to share the domestic load. I could have done more, before it was time to go into the office for the last time before Christmas. Today's great 'O' antiphon uses the image of sovereignty to hail the coming Messiah.
O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one;
Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.
On of the essential givens of human life together is that people of every tribe, tongue, people and nation have a symbol of shared identity, of citizenship, in the person of the king, who represents them to the rest of the world. Kings bestow honorific recognition on those who serve their country well, and represent the rule of law and governance, although these functions are carried out by others on their behalf. This merits them being described as a cornerstone or keystone of society.
This antiphon speaks of kingship over humankind - 'King of the nations' - celebrated of Christ in the liturgy of the Sunday next before Advent. God is the author of existence. Shared acknowledgement of our creator's sovereignty calling upon the Lord in worship, is how mortal humanity can be redeemed from its self-inflicted wounds and fatal flaws.