Adoration Part Two

As I mentioned last week, Father Michael’s been putting out a monstrance for Adoration these last couple of weeks of Advent. My last experience was pretty emotional & very intense.

Tonight’s was also, but in a very different way.

This time I went having heard much less bad news, which didn’t mean I was necessarily having a good day. I had a weird day. But it wasn’t an awful day.

I went in a cheerful mood. I was happy to be ending my day in this manner, knowing that everyone else was busy with a vestry meeting, & I’d selfishly have Christ all to myself again.

I knelt for a bit, & in my head I sang the little chant Father Vladimir taught us:

Here’s my heart, Lord.

Here’s my heart, Lord.

Here’s my heart, Lord.

Speak what is true.

I did that for a good long while with a smile on my face, then just said “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And then I was quiet in my mind.

Here is where some of you will think I am crazy.

I perceived Mary sitting on the pew next to me. I knew she wasn’t actually there there, but she was there. She looked so young & yet spoke with such an aged, wise voice, in a slow, deliberate way, like English was her second language, but she was very good at it if she took her time. She glanced up at the monstrance subtly. “You can sit back,” she said gently. “You’re in pain.”

So I did.

She said, “I knelt by his cradle when he was a baby. And I fell to my knees when he died on that cross.” She said it so carefully and lovingly. I burst into tears.

She spent a good long time telling me some things that might not make any sense to you, but they made perfect sense to me. She said to love him as she loved him, because he is both her son and her God. She knew it was strange.

She said that he never didn’t love me, even when I denied him. You want to talk about a Jewish mother guilt trip. But she didn’t mean for me to feel bad. She just wanted me to know. I felt bad because I felt guilty.

And then Christ was there. I mean, he’s always there, but he was part of this conversation. “Hey, you were a child,” he said, & for some reason Mary sounds like she’s from Israel, but Jesus sounds like he’s from Yonkers. There is nothing I can do about that; he always sounds like a 30-something rabbi from Yonkers to me.

I was basically sobbing at this point. “You were a child & you were in so much pain.”

“He cried with you,” she said. “He cried for you.”

So basically I’ve completely lost it alone in this dark church & Jesus is walking me through some stuff I feel like crap about & he’s explaining where he was during all that & helping me love & understand difficult people. He’s also forgiving me for not getting things at the time.

He & Mary are also consoling me on some difficult people & things now. And telling me that no, it’s not fair but if anyone can handle it, I can.

But where I completely surrendered to the conversation & cried like a child was when he very plainly said to me, “I love you so much. Hey, I love you. You have no idea.” And Mary said it too & I just kind of crumpled on the kneeler & sobbed like a child.

Which of course is when Father walked in & had to lock up the church. But his timing was impeccable; if he’d come in a couple minutes earlier, I would’ve missed all that.

I’m not telling you this because it’s a special experience just for me. It’s a message for you, too. Jesus loves you. You have no idea how much. You can’t possibly comprehend it. I can’t.

Also I get the impression Mary feels a little sorry for men, because they have a hard time being vulnerable. And sometimes they are mean about it. That was really good mom advice. Jesus was basically like, “Ya know, she’s not wrong.”

So that’s the story of my near hour with Jesus & his mom. She thinks of the church as her daughter-in-law. Isn’t that sweet?

I am going to see if other parishes have weekly or daily adoration, because there is nothing like it & I want to go again. I don’t know if it’ll be the same as St. Nicholas — a dark, cold church lit only by a few candles with lingering Sunday scents I know & love — but I want to try.

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Adoration

No one has known more suffering than Christ. I know that now. I know it.

He suffered on the cross & he suffers now. Every time we wound one another, be it something as heinous as murder or simple as indifference, he aches with sorrow.

This hit me during adoration this evening. It hit me long enough to sob for an hour in front of a monstrance. It hit me long enough to sob in the car on the way home, though I did manage to hold it together long enough to buy my stupid sensitive skin soap.

Now that 87% of you think I’m crazy, let me explain what adoration is. Actually, let Brother Jim explain it. This is a lovely piece of writing Father had me email to everyone in the church (yes, someone has entrusted me with yet another database).

Father then announced at Mass this Sunday that during Advent, we’d have adoration on Tuesday evenings. I spent a blessed hour alone in the church, Christ all to myself, kneeling in the front pew.

It occurred to me after maybe 2 minutes of gazing at the Host that I would need tissues, which we apparently don’t have in the sanctuary. I wandered into the sacristy & snagged a couple. I came back, began to pray for Christ to speak to me, & was besieged with inconsolable sorrow.

Every hideous news story I’d read that day hit me with a furious sadness I was incapable of feeling while scrolling my FB feed. A 9-year-old girl who hung herself, a pregnant teenager stabbed to death by her boyfriend. Starving children. The homeless who visit our very parish hall 3 times a week. The unbearable fear & isolation & loneliness of these souls pierces Christ as surely as any spear.

There were visions of friends who are dead, one who killed herself & another who ODed. A friend’s niece who died stupidly, horribly, unnecessarily. My friend’s beautiful brother who recently passed. All walking strong & joyfully with Jesus now, but his own sorrow for them was so much.

I thought of a friend who is going through a tremendously painful, scary medical mystery, his lack of faith, & even pure hatred of God.

I spoke to him. “Is this you all the time? How do we end your suffering? What can I do to end all the suffering? You control the universe! How do we console you?”

I had the sense that all human rage & hatred is only suffering & pain, expressed in sin.

I didn’t get any answers today. All I knew is that after a little while, I stopped crying, & I looked at my watch. I had been there an hour. I figured Father probably wanted to lock up the church & go home. I got to blow out the candles surrounding the monstrance. That felt like a reward.

Sometime during this hour, I also thought of Mary, giving birth to this glorious child who was destined to suffer & die for us. That also made me sob. That never doesn’t make me sob.

On the way home, Garmana’s version of “Virga ac diadema” shuffled up. It was written by Hildegard von Bingen. These are the words in English:

O branch and diadem in royal purple clad,

who like a shield stand in your cloister strong.

You burst forth blooming but with buds quite different

than Adam’s progeny—th’ entire human race.

Hail, o hail! For from your womb came forth another life,

that had been stripped by Adam from his sons.

O bloom, you did not spring from dew

nor from the drops of rain,

nor has the windy air flown over you; but radiance divine

has brought you forth upon that noblest bough.

O branch, your blossoming God had foreseen

within the first day of his own creation.

And by his Word he made of you a golden matrix,

O Virgin, worthy of our praise.

O, how great in power is that side of man,

from which God brought the form of woman forth,

a mirror made

of all his ornament, and an embrace

of all his own creation.

The heavens’ symphony resounds, in wonder stands

all earth, O Mary, worthy of our praise,

for God has loved you more than all.

O cry and weep! How deep the woe!

What sorrow seeped with guilt

in womanhood because the serpent hissed his wicked plan!

That woman, whom God made to be the mother of the world,

had pricked her womb

with wounds of ignorance—the full inheritance of grief

she offered to her offspring.

But from your womb, O dawn, has come the sun anew;

the guilt of Eve he’s washed away

and through you offered humankind a blessing

even greater than the harm that Eve bestowed.

O Lady Savior, who has offered to the human race

a new and brighter light: together join the members of your Son

into the heavens’ harmony.

Like, seriously. That happened. Of course, I burst into tears again.

I don’t really know what to do with this information except to try super hard to never cause anyone sorrow, ever. I mean I already have a No Sorrow policy, & I try to make as many people happy as I can, & alleviate pain as often as possible. But it must not be enough.

I don’t know what to do.

The Distinct Advantage of a Crappy Childhood

I had an epiphany today talking to a good friend about what adults fear & how we learn those fears. I suppose the greatest adult fear, for single people (divorced or otherwise) is being hurt again.

There is nothing pleasant about an adult break up. Whether you were married five years or living together ten, enough of your life & identity are entwined with another person that the act of separating actually destroys some part of you. Even if it’s just a change of address & no assets or custody need to be split, you are not breaking up to be fancy free & joyful. You are rebuilding.

The house has crumbled (sometimes because both of you were crappy builders, sometimes because one of you took a wrecking ball to a load bearing wall, sometimes because you got the black mould), & it has to come down.

Some people immediately move into a tiny house or a mobile home. “Only room for me & my dog/cat in here! I’m good!” they say, meeting their friends for dinner out, but never inviting anyone in, never making room for another. “I like my space,” they say, in the tiniest space they could cram their broken heart into.

“I’ve already moved on!” says another, whose life becomes a veritable motel…many rooms, nothing permanent. Shameful breakfasts. Always with people but perpetually alone.

Then there’s me. I don’t know what I am. I have zero aversion to being in love again, I know what it is when I see it, & I have no desire to force it. I’ve always been like that. I could easily be hurt again & I know that. But I don’t care. The worst thing that will ever happen to me already has. I therefore willingly wait for & then allow what will come. It’s like being homeless & in no particular rush to find a home. Would I like a home? Of course! Do I want to get locked into a 30 year mortgage I can’t afford with someone who can’t love every key part of me? No. Not at all.

I guess you’d call me a renter.

And it’s not just me. One of the most fearless children I know is a foster kid. I won’t get into the details, but this little one’s life would make you burst into tears. And this child is the friendliest, most outgoing child on the planet, always making sure other kids feel welcome, always putting herself out there to make friends, never afraid of rejection despite her life’s experience.

The truth is, she’s probably horrified by the idea of rejection, but plows on anyhow.

Why?

Why not?

True, the consequences of childhood heartache are not the same as adult heartache. Divorce leaves financial & emotional scars children can’t conceive of. But children’s brains are actually shaped by trauma, & their lives are often directed by trauma for years, sometimes decades after. It’s not always pretty.

But somehow, those kids always try hardest to show love (unless they’re the ones that go super dark, which would be an entirely other post & unrelated to today’s conversation).

I then had a bit of a revelation that I shared with my friend. “I have an advantage I never realized.”

“You do? What’s that?”

“I’ve had longer to heal from my pain. People with idyllic childhoods & youths — they get hurt later & it’s raw for a long time.”

“Yeah, it’s true.”

“But people who were hurt as kids…we have a lot more time to work on it & learn what we need to learn from it.”

“I guess that’s one way of looking at it.”

“You know I’m going to forget this epiphany, right?”

“No, you won’t.”

“Eh, maybe not now that I’ve told you. I usually have these in the shower, then forget them. I’ve probably had this same epiphany 40 times already.”

And now I’m sharing it with all 8 of you that read this blog regularly. Some of you may even comment “Isn’t childhood trauma resilience more like numbing & flattened affect?”

Bitches, have you seen my affect? It ain’t flat. That shit is alive & in colour. It’ll take you to Flavortown, have you meet the mayor & buy you a souvenir foam rubber hand.

Flattened affect my arse. Get out of here with that jive.

But I have another advantage, one that will not make sense to all of you, & that’s okay. It is legit my relationship with Christ, my kvetching to Mary, my ongoing dialogue with God in a language that uses virtually no words & is as crystal clear as light.

Sometimes you can’t see light because it’s so…light, but every now & then — wow.

To live in concert with the Holy Spirit is to pretty much always default to joy, or if not joy, then contentment. I will not lie & tell you people that I am always bloody happy. I am not. I actually took a moment & prayed today for some relief from something, & you know what happened? I ended up carrying a rubbish bin full of water to a random stranger on the street not ten minutes later. WHAT WAS THAT EVEN ABOUT & HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

I don’t know, but the rest of the day was wonderful after that. Basically the Holy Spirit is weird.

And God has a sense of humour. “Oh, you’re feeling a little put out? Well, Sunshine, here’s a guy who needs a rubbish bin filled with water.”

Did I tell you about the time the Bishop of El Salvador needed a ride to a Dodger game? And back? So I couldn’t swear in a car in LA rush hour traffic for TWO HOURS?

The Holy Spirit, y’all.

Let’s just all agree right now, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, pagan, atheist, whatever — right now that there are Things and Machinations of incomprehensible beauty & the one thing we can agree on is that they will occur whether we think we are ready for them or not.

Our job is to respond with grace.

What is fear keeping you from enjoying? Who is anger stopping you from loving?

I also wrote this, which is specifically geared toward people who have Survived.

What in the actual

I am trying to remember my dream from last night because I know it was Significant. I fell asleep in tearful prayer (apparently the glutening is still a thing, despite my slight improvement in symptoms), and I prayed to remember anything told me. But it seems I have been shown things instead (which happens).

I can’t remember the beginning at all, but eventually it seemed to unfold that I worked at a thrift store run by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. We were all of us encouraged to shop there, too, so we did. I think my Facebook friend Eric was my coworker somehow.

I had been looking through make-up (something I would never buy used) when a girl (maybe Meghan from Reno?) brought me an empire-waisted blue top with 3/4 lace cuffed sleeves. It seemed cute to me in the dream, so I tried it on. It didn’t quite fit over my clothes. She found another that was more of an Easter green & that was a little too big, but quite comfortable. Everybody thought it looked really good although I looked pregnant.

I had no time to take it off because Bishop Diane was visiting. She set her shoes (shearling-lined wooden clogs with a bit of a heel) aside & asked me to try them on in front of everybody. They were comfortable, but I felt like something was off. I touched the top of my head, which was sticky.

I went into a bathroom & there was dried dirt caked on my face (that I assumed came from the top I was wearing) & it looked like a bird had crapped fuchsia glitter slime onto the top of my head. I could see it & feel it, but nobody else noticed it. I was pointing it out to people, but nobody could see it.

Suddenly I was in a subway station and Jimmie was hovering over the far platform in the lotus position. “Everything I have said is as it is,” he intoned with a smile, which is interesting, because in the real world, he has been trying to help me understand something.

Then the “screen” of my mind went blank, and the cat flew in with an envelop & a wax stamp.

This cat.He stamped the envelop with an elaborate, pretty black seal & handed it to me, saying in a kitty voice “Here!” Then I distinctly heard Jesus say, “This is my official seal; these were your answers. Wake up.”

And I did.

The seal was a very wispy, delicate version of this, but in a circle with some leafy looking embellishments:

To say that I am confused is an understatement. I am also really tired. Jesus wanted me to only get 6 hours of sleep (well, Him & the cat).

Purity

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, & from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, & worthily magnify thy holy name, though Christ our Lord. Amen.

Isn’t it amazing what you take on board & find playing on repeat in your mind at 11:27 PM on a Tuesday night?

Whenever we say this prayer at the start of mass, two things happen. First, it doesn’t matter what priest is leading it. I will always hear Father Davies’ Welshy Londony voice in my head.

Second, I tend to place a lot of emphasis, when I recite it, on the “all desires known.”

This is because I literally have no idea what I want half the time. I figure God knows what I will not admit to myself. I have ideas about what I want, & then I move toward those things, & then God laughs & says, “Oh, child, that is funny. My dear creature. Hilarious.”

He’s not wrong. I’ve talked about babies & dusty crackers in one of my books. God does not want me to put that wretched thing in my mouth, & I let him lead. Now I am trying to let him lead completely, without even trying to do anything.

This is producing results that have me saying things to him like “This makes legit zero sense.”

And God responds enthusiastically, “Oh, you think that was crazy? Hold my beer!”

If God knows all my desires, and this is where I’m going, I am a much stranger person than I thought. Like, seriously, flawlessly bizarre. I wouldn’t even know how to describe some things that have happened without sounding like I was trying to story board a fourth season of Twin Peaks.

It’s all real, but it’s not normal.

It’s certainly not bad. It is a series of gentle, free (or nearly free) and sometimes ludicrously joyous happenings that are seemingly unrelated. A teenager tells me after five minutes of conversation that I am now her best friend. A small child describes sharks and yogurt to me in grave, exacting detail. A friend sings “Don’t Fear the Reaper” to me the same way Carol Burnett might. On a warm afternoon, I am somehow the center of a very attentive universe, when my plan that day was to serve. I get sick again, & the cat kneads me for the first time since I rescued him. I have a job I love, friends who care, and a DJ who just mashed up David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” with Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie.”

I don’t even know who I am any more.

Is this what #blessed looks like? It’s weird, you guys. Smiling randomly to yourself all day is weird.

All desires known.” Well, what else do I want, Lord? Where TF does this crazy train go?

If you have that opening riff in your head right now, I have won.

The Examen

Something I should do more often, because I am gradually observing its effects, is the examen. Most of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and some of you are saying, “Yes, for the 50th time already!”

This is a form of Ignatian prayer that…oh, this is just much easier. Here:

The one I do is a spoken, guided examen (or meditation, for those of you who need that word to feel spiritual but not religious) from the Pray As You Go app. It’s accompanied by Purcell’s “Hear My Prayer, Oh Lord,” which is super helpful to get in the spirit of things. More importantly, to get in The Spirit.

It seems pretty simple, right? But when you glance over your day with the caveat that you will see what is important to God, it changes the review. You are simultaneously drawn to things you would otherwise find unimportant, & repulsed by things you kind of overlooked before. This is not meant as a form of self torment, but as a reality check. You are neither as good or evil as you think much of the time.

Your life is also much more lovely that you think. Really.

For example…I was having a bit of a difficult day yesterday. I am tired of being sick. So tired. I dragged myself to church because I really enjoy church, but it was also the annual parish meeting. We elect vestry & the folks who will go to diocesan convention. I was nominated for the latter, but am so new to the parish that I’m the last alternate. And that’s okay.

It was a long meeting. I took a lot of medication. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and weepy, but not actually weeping, and I was inexplicably annoyed. Then my team won, & is going to the Super Bowl, & that’s good, but I was still really fragile, which is a thing I do not enjoy.

During the Examen I was able to see where illness was making me mopey and where moments of genuine, really lovely joy occurred (& weirdly, they had nothing to do with the Pats’ victory).

Through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, I found moments of hilarity I’d forgotten about, was able to correctly see incidents I had previously assigned negative connotations to, and more deeply understood some of my own unhealed parts. I was able to forgive them & realize that they were amplified by illness.

Through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, I could see the many faces that had turned to me that day, and see their expressions anew. I could see where people were looking to me for comfort or affirmation. I could see it was not just me yearning for human acknowledgement (nobody, not even church people, wants to hug you when you’re sick), but others looking for it from me (and then recoiling in terror because I am sick).

There are still some things I don’t understand today, and that’s okay. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we understand virtually nothing anyway.

New questions have been brought up, new challenges. Some are really scary. Some are ones I’ve wrestled with for the past 12 years (or more), & I should probably set them aside until I am well.

I am frequently accused of being too patient, but in some areas, I really am not patient enough.

In a lot of ways, things were much easier to understand when I was a very sad, afraid person, because I always had a rock solid framework of misery through which to view the world, and I was always right. But I now realize I was right because my viewpoint couldn’t help but create my reality.

Oh my God, what would happen if my rock solid framework was simply following Christ, as in yesterday’s gospel and homily? What reality will that create? Can you even imagine? The idea is terrifying and exciting and magnificent.

I am struggling free of this net. Now what shall I do, flopping about on this boat deck, gasping for air?

It is interesting that I identify with the fish and less with the fishermen in the gospel.

Maybe I should pray about that tonight.

Here are some books I have written.

A poem on the edge of a new year

Upon the Board

Expectation in suspension

This is the hovering, the inhalation

The sips of certainty drowned by torrents of wonder

How impervious now to failure we think we are

Surely this will be executed with no splash

A pike, a double twist, and abundant prayer

Fervent at every breath of every waking moment

And catching in the apnea of evening during precious minutes of sleep

A longing moan for More of the Lord Our God

Fill the spaces scourged of joy

Smooth the scars jagged and wary

Grant us peace in our day and

In thy mercy keep us free from sin

Except the mild ones we crave

Let’s have a few of those from time to time to laugh about and smile

And only tell those few whose eyes will twinkle

While You wonder if we ever read Paul’s letters and You know full well we did and that we believe so earnestly in salvation that we think it’s probably okay

And what is sin anyway and

Isn’t everything kind of a sin anyhow and

It was like that when I got here

And thank You for Your love or

Surely there’s a place for me in hell right next to Henry Miller & my

Punishment is having to listen to him recite his own

Awful books

For eternity

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