Windows on Heaven

It was a busy week with many demands from distant corners of my life. Time at times seemed to implode, then scatter my psyche into a thousand pieces.

So Church today was an especially great blessing, pulling me out of the week of flurry, lists, appointments, schedules, and welcoming me inside to beauty, chant, color, peace. It was a window on Heaven, and I glimpsed through the glass another world, a glorious world.

We had many reasons to celebrate today in our parish church.

A baby girl arrived six weeks ago, from Heaven of course, and she came to church today, fitting perfectly into the cleft of the thick arm of her proud father. His strong fingers held her gently and we marveled at the delicate features of this tiny child, her perfect fingers, her curly hair.

One of the boys in Sunday School (nearly ten) graduated to Acolyte today, and for the first time we watched as he processed with the clergy and other acolytes, carrying his flaming candle, up the red-carpeted aisle. He took his place in the sanctuary, following the instructions of the older boys, his face serious and proud.

We sang boisterous hymns today, celebrating our nation and our freedoms, in anticipation of the Fourth of July, and it was good to hear our many voices joined together, the booming organ leading us, as the fiery stained glass of Pentecost glowed over the choir loft. The nave was warm and the sanctuary glowed on this cool foggy first day of July in the Bay Area, and we rode together in the ark of the Church, rolling on the undulating tide of our culture, protected from the drowning undertows.

I wondered about the recent events in our nation that threatened ships such as ours, knocking holes in the hull and allowing the sea to pour in.

Our nation was founded on religious freedom, freedom now threatened. As we approach July 4, our National Independence Day, I think about these freedoms, often taken for granted. The desire for religious freedom brought pilgrims and dissenters and believers of all sorts to our shores, escaping persecution in Europe. We had the right, they said, to worship as as we pleased, to follow our conscience. The government had no right to dictate our conscience. I prayed these protections would not be lost.

So today we celebrated our freedom of religion in this great country, and we also celebrated our parish’s patronal festival, St. Peter’s Parish’ ninety-ninth birthday here in Rockridge, North Oakland, California. Our Anglo-Catholic parish has sailed through the years, at times battered by the currents, at times joyously hoisting its flag into the blue heavens.  St. Peter was a fisherman who knew the currents and the seas.  He too was persecuted, but he set and reset his course in the first years of the Early Church, creating a course for this Body of Christ on earth.

The liturgy danced, and soon we as the People of God once again completed the offering and sacrifice of the Mass on this Sunday, July 1, in the year 2012. Once again we received God into our bodies and souls. The angels would record this event in the book of Heaven. It all counted, I was sure. Nothing was lost.

The last notes of the organ thundered from beneath the flaming stained glass and our young acolyte in his red cassock and white cotta, gripping his torch, recessed down the aisle with the other clergy.

Downstairs in the parish hall there would be a barbecue. There would be champagne and margaritas. There would be Sunday School Awards. And we would shower our new tiny member of the Body of Christ with little pink sleepers and ballerina shoes and diapers and hand-knit blankets and booties. She would be passed from grandmother to grandmother, her new adopted family. When is the baptism? we all cried, grinning hopefully for another opportunity to buy baby gifts.

Later, as we headed to our cars to return to our weekday lives with their often frenzied pace, I gave thanks for each window on Heaven, for I glimpsed again God’s burning love for us, in His Body, the Church. The thousand pieces of my scattered mind had been reunited. I was once again made whole.

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