Stained Glass Glory and Juggling Fire

Tonight I learned what I feel is a rather strange lesson: I simply cannot multitask whenever I wish, in any situation.

I don’t always choose to do more than one thing at once, but the efficient part of my brain tells me it makes more sense to be completing a file note while I wait for a document to pull up, to put in a load of laundry before I crush all the candies (someone has to crush the candies, this is an important lesson from my friend Kelly). If I am not looking only at the spinning wheel of death as Word loads, if I am crushing candies while the washing machine spins my dirty clothes around, somehow I am doing something I ought to be doing (and wasting time at the same time in the candy crushing sense, I’m sort of magical that way), and then something more. I like to be more.

So tonight was Candlemas, a major feast (so an important one), it is the feast of the presentation of Jesus at the temple. I’d thought, wrongly, that this was the time when he went to church and, like my brother when he was a little boy preached at all the people. But no, he was an infant.

My sister and I are Henry VIII buffs, we’ve read the word “candlemas” over and over again, we’ve read about women being “churched” at candlemas. Candlemas, in historical novels, is a sort of way to mark time, to tell the reader where they are in the year that a story is taking place.

I didn’t know, the first time I heard the song of Simeon, that it was the words of an old, old man who’d finally seen, with his own eyes, a prophesy realized. He said his eyes had seen the savior, a light to enlighten the nations.

Simeon then prophesied for Mary, he told her that her child was set for the rising and falling of many in Israel, and that a sword would pierce her own soul.

And of course his prophesy was true.

Anyway, back to the multitasking (which I totally think I just did, you’re welcome for that little candlemas lesson). Tonight I was the cantor, or cantress, as my new friend Albert called me. We all sing the refrain over and over, but I sing the psalm in between. Albert told me if I could find the A I would be fine and the rest of it didn’t matter, which is sort of true unless you’re a bit of a perfectionist. Which I sort of am.

We all processed in.

Do you know how hard it is to hold a candle and a hymnal and walk forward, in the dark, singing a song you’ve never heard before?

We didn’t, any of us, I don’t think, read beforehand the directions in the service bulletin, so of course we were all snug in the wrong place when that song ended.

When it was time to chant I stood up, I picked up my music and sang out the opening refrain with the candle in my right hand… and then I had to somehow lean down and pick up a heavy bell and ring that bell…. with a candle in my hand.

Now you may ask, why didn’t you just blow it out? Because it was dark and if I’d blown it out I couldn’t have read the music.

So there is now hot wax on my robes, the kneeler, my hand, and a borrowed hymnal.

It was sort of a messy beginning, all of us in the wrong places and wrong notes all over the place. When I finally got to ring that bell it was like walking suddenly into a room full of kittens, everyone fled in opposite musical directions. But I managed to find that A, time and again.

But we got through it.

Father Ken did, what I thought, was his best sermon ever. He talked about light. He talked about how we can reflect light, bounce it back off all the other people out there, or we can internalize it. He talked about how when something just sucks the light up, well, that thing is dark, it isn’t sending any light back out.

I thought about the candle in my hand and the hot wax on my hand, about how hard it is to ring a heavy  bell and sing a psalm and hold a candle all at the same time.

And it became a metaphor for how hard it sometimes is to reflect light back, to not hoard it all. I thought about how the sun shines through the Lazarus window which is almost directly across from where I have to normally sit. As the light comes through the old panes it breaks apart and scatters color. It is prismatic.

I thought about how I learned the psalm for tonight and how I wanted to give it to those few in attendance. How magical it is, almost eerie, to hear a voice floating out into the dark nave, to realize that the voice is yours.. And how I really had to work to give that tonight, between learning it and balancing the music and the bell and the fire in my hand.

I’m struggling with vocation, with call. I can say all day long, I am called to serve. to serve. to serve. And that’s easy, but it’s also the easy answer, the way out that doesn’t reflect back what I have soaked up, the full on stained glass window glory of it. Its like how a flourescent light sends out light, sickly and feeble and somehow flickery.

I want to be a stained glass window, on a sunny morning. To juggle a candle and a C bell. To chant a psalm for a group of five. To be a light.

I want to.

But sometimes life is like that, more wanting than knowing or doing. Like a dark place where you have to keep walking, and a song you don’t know that you have to keep singing. Like so much noise in the place of something that you wish would be so lovely. Like flickery light and not full on glory light.

Being glory light is hard, it hurts my heart and it’s bright sometimes, so bright it hurts my eyes.  And it requires effort.

But I want to.


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