Monday, April 28, 2008
It's beautiful right now outside my window. One of the things I love about living across the parking lot from the church is that I can sit at a little table and look out the window, through the new green trees and see the gallery from a distance. Get a little perspective if you will.
Last night someone left a poem on my desk by Teilhard de Chardin. (Thank you. Whoever you are.) It starts off like this:
"Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally,
impatient in everything to reach the end
We should like to skip
the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability -
and that it may take a very long time.
And so it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually-
let them grow.
Let them shape themselves,
without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today
what time (that is to say, grace and
circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of
feeling in suspense and incomplete."
Ok, I went ahead and posted the whole thing. I only meant to do the first stanza because the second seems like it was written to me personally and seems to reveal too much. But, then again, I'm sure you appreciate it too, so I thought I'd share.
I received this poem last night but it wasn't the only wonderful thing. Last night we hosted Convivium an a cappella ensemble which sings early (and more modern) sacred and secular music. They were beautiful! That sound of voices filling our little chapel sanctuary was restful and spirit lifting. I think my favorite was the passionate piece written by the king, Joao IV of Portugal.
What I realized again last night was how long it takes for me to be able to relax and really enter into the music. I would frequently have this experience when we did the jazz services as well. It is always rewarding and refreshing when I do, but it usually takes me about 45 minutes to finally stop thinking of other things and trying to "get something out of it" before I can just let go and listen and be transported. - And that for me is where worship happens. When my agenda finally stops and I surrender to just being in God's presence. Just entering another space through a portal provided by music where I encounter the real me (free of worry) and the real God (fully present).
I was fortunate to be able to talk with several of the singers afterwards who were confirming my own experience that very often a church service has failed to provide this portal where a concert or play or exhibit has managed it. And this sets me thinking again...what are we missing and how do we meld these worlds together so that things can be as they ought?
Finally, we traveled over to Cassatt's in Arlington to attend Cecily Corcoran's reception for her exhibit there. It was so great to see her surrounded by her work and allowing us to get to know that part of her. Again, it took me time to stop and really SEE the work. Usually, I do a first pass and my brain says - ok, that is the monument, building, traffic, etc. ok, I got it, next. next. Like the only thing my brain is good for is processing data.
But, that's not the point and so, again, it takes time. I took another look and another and another. And then all of the sudden, I was seeing. I saw the city in ways that I miss when I'm traveling through in traffic. And I saw my own special moments reflected in her work. Those times when I glance up and think "wow, that's beautiful!" or just catch a feeling of the city at dusk when it feels infinitely romantic and exciting. Ever since I was in 6th grade that time of night traveling anywhere near the city makes me wonder - "what exciting things are people up to? What are they wearing? Where are they going? It has an air of "grown up" things, sophisticated things that I still feel like I am pretending about even now when I go out. Her work kind of reads like a love letter and I found myself loving the city again. As our little crew headed back to Alexandria in my car B., P., and I had a great chance to talk in a way that we haven't before and laugh pretty hard together. As P. said - "What a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon." Transcendence through the senses, stillness and contemplation, prayer, true fellowship. It may have been unorthodox, but it was worship.