Friday, March 6, 2009

Among the Believers

Last Sunday, I accompanied my daughter to church. Her father is Catholic, and wants her to have first communion. When she came home last October saying, “Mummy, doesn’t my Sunday school teacher realize this is all mythology?” (she studied the Greeks last year) I wasn’t concerned that she was going to become a holy roller anytime soon. Listening to the liturgy is familiar. I was brought up Episcopalian (famously, “Catholic light” according to Robin Williams) and the service is the same. Though in both modern language editions, I sorely miss the poetry of the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer. And though I can no longer recite the Nicene Creed with conviction—believing as I do that there are many doors into the same room—I appreciate the sense of fellowship and a community centered on the spiritual life.

What inspired me that day was the priest’s homily. This is a family-oriented congregation, and amidst the background of murmurings and baby gurgles, the general restlessness of the youngest parishioners, the Father gamely delivered a simple and thoughtful commentary on God’s covenant of Love. I thought about the story of Jesus that has come down to us, whitewashed and manipulated as it was for political purposes at the Council of Nicea, and even though he represents Realization (like the Buddha’s Enlightenment) and is to some divine, his humanity could not be entirely erased. His anger at the moneylenders in the temple comes to mind, his weeping, as well as his doubt upon the cross. I have always found it sad that, unlike the stories of the Buddha, we do not have anecdotes of Jesus’ youth and early manhood. Like Athena, he springs full-grown, at the height of his rhetorical and spiritual powers. I have always hankered for the Jesus who LAUGHED, and made others laugh as well.

That aside, I was moved by the priest’s gentle reminders of this covenant of Love in the everyday—the smile from a stranger, a friend’s hug, a sharp noise, a simple tune, the sun in the trees, or rain on the grass—the signs are all around us if we only take time to breathe, listen and see with open hearts.

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