Thursday, June 5, 2014

Holy Smoke

Holy Smoke

“…glory-ey to the new born King!”

The echoes rang through the sanctuary, down the nave, out through the apses, spilling down through the cloister to the scriptorium, library and down the long Roman stairs to the refectory already stacked to the ceiling with baked delicacies the likes of which none of the monks had even looked upon for the entire liturgical year.

Christ is born. Hallelujah! The Word has become flesh.

Filing down the center aisle of the nave, the monks bowed before the Abbot as he shook the holy water in their direction. The line then moved out into the cloister for the long awaited mixt.

After being sprinkled, I turned left and knelt inside the door leading to the secular chapels and waited. After fifteen minutes or so, and hearing the chapels’ doors open and close for the last time, I opened my door and bent out into the biting cold wind coming off our North Hill. I walked out through the gate which was next to the “Monastic Enclosure” sign and out to the tiled porches along the front of the church, opened the chapel door, took a quick look around, turned out the light, locked and closed the door with a firm slam.

Then I paused as I always did, looking out into the darkened sky and the falling-away hill on top of which the monastery is perched. I looked straight into the heart of the constellation Orion. Above it as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw more clearly with every passing minute the Pleiades, an open cluster of blue stars nicknamed the “Seven Sisters” although without ever seeing more than six. I’d always loved the night sky ever since I was a paperboy in Norwood after dark on a winter’s night. I grew familiar with all the constellations over the Northern Hemisphere and understood that these stars were only those extremely close to our star, the sun, in a galaxy called the Milky Way across which light, traveling at 186,000 miles /second requires 100,000 years to complete its traverse. This galaxy has a close neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy, roughly the same size and located at a distance from us of 1,000,000 light-years. The rest of the known cosmos spreads out to a distance of 13.7 billion light-years. These outermost parts of the cosmos are moving outwards from a center point at accelerating velocity, a mystery current astrophysicists are just beginning to wrestle with.

In fact, the “Word was made flesh” of Jn. 1:14, is just as much a mystery to theologians as the beginning of matter and energy from a “point of no dimensions” is to astrophysicists.  Merry Christmas and happy contemplation!

As I reentered the church on my way to the refectory, I was nearly overcome by the lingering clouds of incense pungently symbolizing the mystery of mysteries which envelops us all inwardly and outwardly. God is within and without. Hallelujah!

                                                                                  Charlie Mc