Sage & Frankincense

Today we had a requiem mass at  my church for Chief James LaCroix, a long time parishioner. I don’t think I ever met Chief Jim, as his friends called him. I am familiar with his brother, Albert, a parishioner I see every time I’m there. I attended because I respect & like Albert a lot.

Albert, it seems, is our link to the homeless population of Hollywood. An ombudsman, if you will. I don’t entirely know his situation. I just know that he always says good morning & always has a joke ready & I’ve watched him jump up immediately & protect his fellow parishioners when disturbed persons have wandered onto church grounds. 

He’s a fricken bad ass. He & our sexton, Eddie, are fearless knights in shining armor. Albert’s armor just happens to be a black leather jacket.

You know when you’re stuck behind a broken down Budget Rent a Truck on Highland & are freaking out because you’re going to be late & not get a good seat at church where you can both see & hear? Well, maybe you’re familiar with the situation. Anyhow, that happened. And I am so glad it did.

Because I was stuck behind that broken down truck, during rush hour traffic in Hollywood of all places, I ended up getting there just before 7 & right as Albert was talking in the car park with his friends Mikey & Phillip. Bless you, broken down truck! Albert introduced me to his friends, friends of Jim, & I noticed he was holding a smudge stick. “You’re saging!” I said.

“Yes!” said Albert with a smile. “It’s a Native American thing, & I’m pretty native.”

I told him it was nice to see someone using it in context, as opposed to how it’s usually used in Los Angeles. Which is to expel the negative vibes of an argument with your agent.

Albert & I walked to the church & he told me the true use of sage, which in this context was to help Jim’s spirit go to the good afterworld “with Jesus”, & to send the bad spirits away, so they don’t keep him here on Earth. He told me he had saged the whole church already & had come out to prepare himself. I asked if he wanted to sage me, & he did. Properly prepared, I went in ahead of Albert, Mikey & Phillip so they could prepare.

The whole church did smell like sage, & not the usual frankincense/lemon scent. This did not change the sacred aura of St. Thomas at all, it just changed the flavour. Albert then came in with Mikey & Phillip & they saged the pascal candle.

I have never been to a requiem mass before, or a funeral. It was very peaceful & similar to the regular mass (even down to the whole thing coming to a screeching halt so Father could give me gluten free host). I found I knew what to do most of the time. The regular church incense mingled with the aroma of sage, & I felt very much as though the world was still for James.

The sermon was replaced by Father’s remembrances of Chief Jim & how he & Albert represented the homeless breakfast club at his dedication as the new rector of St. Thomas. Father also remarked that Los Angeles’ homeless population is double the entire population of his hometown in Wales. I think Father choked up a little bit during the Kontakion. It was a wonderful service, blending a little of James & Albert’s traditions with old school Anglican & Orthodox liturgy.

Afterward Christopher & I stood in the car park & talked about being nerds while it started to rain. It was a long day. It was a good day.

Let light perpetual shine upon Chief James LaCroix.