Monday, August 25, 2008


We celebrated our community's "Foundation Day" yesterday. It was my first as a life-professed sister of the community; why that made a difference, I'm not sure exactly. I've been treated like a member since my acceptance as a postulant. But it was different. I told one sister, I used to look at the bricks, now I am one.

Emotionally, it was huge. (I cried.) The four sisters who live at Melrose, the convent in Brewster, came down mid morning for the day. Those four extra voices at mass made such a difference. One of them, a gifted musician, made our little organ do cartwheels. The service was lovely, the preaching was excellent, we were all together. Emotionally huge.

But... maybe it was huge because I was absolutely wiped out from being up in the night. One of our beloved elders has just come home from the hospital. Her surgery was Thursday and the insurance companies won't allow long hospital stays anymore. She can't get up by herself yet, she's too wobbly, and I just happened to be on beeper duty this week. The beep beep beep went off at 12:30 and again at 5:00. Uh oh... Diarrhea. I was (am) a mom. I've had my share of cleaning up poopy pants, it's not a big deal. Still, it took a while... changing sheets, cleaning up, finding new night clothes. She was a doll through the entire process, cheerful and helpful, apologetic and embarrassed, yet she let me help her do what needed to be done. I didn't think much about it at the time.

In her sermon, our celebrant spoke about the concepts of holy time, holy tools, holy place. When King David decides he's going to build God a Temple, God says "Did I ever say I wanted a house?" It was not God's need, it was ours. We have a distinct history of making altars, tabernacles, places of special sanctification. From early standing stones to mighty cathedrals, we have needed to differentiate between the ordinary and the sacred. Also with our tools... the special vessels for mass, special vestments. And with our time. Here we recite a fourfold Divine Office: Lauds, Noonday, Vespers and Compline. We set these times for prayer aside from the rest of the day, and when the warning bell rings, we stop whatever we're doing and gather in the chapel. It would seem that the larger truth: that
all time is holy, all ground is holy is being ignored. She said no... we understand that on an intellectual level, but we cannot comprehend it, not really. So the defining, the comparisons, the degrees of sacredness we assign... all give us a framework for awareness. Layers of mystical awareness.

Jacob, on awakening from his dream of angels says: Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. We may assign certain times and places as sacred, but God is everywhere and shows up unexpectedly and we know it not. Until later. An afterthought. Oh... that was holy ground. That was holy time.

And so it was for me as she spoke. I thought about the early morning hours, literally up to my elbows in excrement.
That was holy time. And I knew it not.

As she continued her thread of the mystical layers of awareness, she said that once in the center, with God, that's not the end. We must keep moving, and come back out to the outer realms. These holy times are always temporary... temporary resting places so we can renew, replenish, but keep on keeping on. And, she said
we can be temporary resting places for others.

I thought about
that, tried it on to see if it fit. Had I been a temporary resting place for my sister in distress? Maybe. But the larger truth was that she was the holy ground and my time with her, cleaning her bottom was the holy time. Paradox... don't you just love when that happens?

No comments: