Turkish Delight at St Thomas’ Parish: an Artefact of Sacred Resistance

“Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”

C. S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Traditionally, this Third Sunday of Advent is many parishioners’ last Sunday in Washington, DC before travelling to visit families for Christmas.  It always felt to me like “Christmas at St. Thomas’ – transferred!” It has been a joy to watch our congregation celebrate together as many of us wished each other a safe, festive journey away to another place.

I’ve always felt that the more joyful nature of Gaudete Sunday, in the midst of a generally penitential season, provides an opportunity for something different.  And I believe that referencing the rare liturgical colour—even if only as subtle as a treat for Coffee Hour—provides an opportunity for our faith community to learn more about our Episcopal liturgical calendar, and our history, in a creative way.  I’ve rejoiced that our jewel of a parish church in Dupont Circle truly welcomes everyone. That includes opportunities for new traditions that are uniquely ours, capturing the imagination of our diocese.

Over the past years, a feature for this Sunday’s festive Coffee Hours was rose-flavoured lokum candy, colloquially known as “Turkish Delight.”  This might appear to be a rather subversive menu choice, given the treat’s notoriety in C.S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe. It was, after all, the enchanted temptation for which young Edmund Pevensie betrays his fellow “Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve” in order to secure.

Rather than the fictional “enchanted” Turkish delight of the storybook, I imagine our lokum for Advent 2020–deployed via individual tins that were made with solar power, and delivered straight to our Episcopal Church in Dupont Circle—to be ‘blessed,’ as a testimonial to the power of light!  

Indeed, I’d like to further reimagine our Turkish Delight as an artefact of sacred resistance.

It was no accident for Turkish Delight—an impossible luxury to obtain during wartime austerity—to be featured in C.S Lewis’s story if one considers the plot. During the airborne attack of cities across the United Kingdom by a fascist regime in the 1940s, four children are sent to a mysterious house in the countryside, where they will be safer.  A young girl, along with her siblings, seeks a way out through an enchanted wardrobe into an ethereal world, where they eventually vanquish evil with the help of Aslan. They become kings and queens, the foretold sons and daughters of Adam & Eve.  The Christian allegories of Lewis’s Narnia series are often celebrated within Anglican circles, and indeed across our world. 

The fantasy may take on a more nuanced meaning when one considers that it is based within the context of an actual historical event: the evacuation of British children during the Second World War, as their parents stayed home to assist with the war efforts.  Like the characters from C. S Lewis’s book, both of my Crighton grandparents were sent from English cities into the British countryside during the war as children.  My grandmother, orphaned at the age of four, was separated from her other siblings on a train that was eventually deployed to rural Wales. Throughout her life, she recounted vivid details and imagery of her experience on the train, and her time away in the countryside…alas, there was no wardrobe.

According to food critic Cara Strickland:

“It makes sense to draw a parallel between this dismal fantasy and the stark realities of wartime. Rationing extended to timber, which made Christmas trees harder to come by, and confectionery rationing didn’t end until February of 1953—still well before the end of sugar rationing later that year. When the White Witch asks Edmund what he’d like best to eat, it’s entirely possible that Lewis was answering for him: the candy that would be most difficult and expensive to obtain. Edmund isn’t just asking the witch for candy, he’s essentially asking her for Christmas, too.”

I have often referred to our time during the coronavirus pandemic as “the Deep Lent.”  Perhaps a Deep Lent has now given way into a Deeper Advent.  Like Narnia’s Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve, we find ourselves physically separated from our loved ones and daily routines for the greater good of the communities in which we live.  We seek Spring, in a time in which everything feels perpetually frozen. We seek Jesus in a newer, warmer world. 

As I grew more into faith, I reflected upon C.S Lewis’s text of “always winter, but never Christmas” in relation to Advent.  I suppose that for me, Advent is the knowledge that Winter does in fact end, and a tutorial in looking for that manifestation.  

I’d like to hope that here in Washington, DC, the icicles now seem to be slowly melting away, too.

As the parish was awaiting its new building, there began dialogue about St. Thomas’ Parish living into the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke. I understand the connection, and appreciate its beauty, but that particular scriptural metaphor never resonated with me.  As a church which has always benefited from diversity of thought, I’ve always thought of St. Thomas’ Parish not as a people on a journey, but rather the people who stayed, a people who were loyal, a people who welcome, a people who loved their home enough to fight for it with love.  Indeed, a people who wait for Christ whilst striving to see Christ in each person, and to be Christ in our community, our city, and our world.

“Gaudete!” 

For Christmas is on the way.

Jesus is on the way.

Jason Crighton has been a member of St. Thomas’ Parish since 2015, where he serves as a Lay Eucharistic Minister.  He is a Lay Alternate Deputy to the 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, representing the Diocese of Washington. 

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