Monday, 14 April 2008

Word of yesterday - collation

Yesterday evening I preached at an Anglican service of collation which was part of choral evensong.
The venerable Colin Wiliams was being collated, and became an honorary canon of the Cathedral of Gibraltar, in recognition of his work as general secretary of the Conference of European Churches.
I always feel a little strange preaching at evensong as traditionally the altar candles are often blown out before the sermon, but this wasn't the case last night. (And I'll spare you my thoughts about the first hymn - Good Christian Men Rejoice and Sing.)
I couldn't resist the temptation of doing a little etymology of the word collation in the sermon.

Anyway here's an extract from the sermon to bore you all- entitled Christ our collation:

So for a linguist and translator it's been a fascinating journey to look at dictionary definitions and tease out a translation of this ancient term that might have meaning for us today.
The first thing that struck me is that in ordinary non-ecclesiastical usage, collation has two almost contradictory meanings
The first meaning being a painstaking bringing together or comparison of documents, texts or pages before binding (interestingly this meaning also became the technical term for the careful comparison of the Latin vulgate Bible translation with the original Greek and Hebrew)
The second almost contradictory meaning is a corruption of the first
meaning a hotchpotch, a stew of bits and pieces. Things brought together with almost no care or pain taken.

Collation is also used to refer to some arcane parts of Scottish or the State of Louisiana's inheritance law - but I'll spare you all that

a light meal that may be permitted on days of general fast.
any light meal.
(in a monastery) the daily practice of reading and conversing on the lives of the saints or the Scriptures at the close of the day.
the presentation of a member of the clergy to a benefice, esp. by a bishop who is the patron or has acquired the patron's rights.

When the Emmaus two meet the stranger on their road from Jerusalem
Christ offers a living
a resurrected collation to the disciples
it is an oral not a written comparison
He shows them
who had called him ignorant because of his
lack of awareness of recent current affairs in Jerusalem
that there is much more to understand in the witness of scripture than they in their grieving ignorance had so far understood
He walks with them, explaining and sharing stories and meaning with them
And his painstaking, living, bread-breaking collation lifts the scales from their eyes and they see, they perceive - meaning and life differently
Christ's collation and bringing together of stories sets them off immediately on a return journey - not dragging their feet with grief but filled with a joyful good news

Anyway it was a real honour to preach for Colin's collation and it was also an education.