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My savior’s love endures.

A few days ago I went to the Episcopal Cathedral of Philadelphia for noon prayer and Eucharist.

The huge red doors were locked when I went up the stairs. I was disappointed as this wasn’t the first time I had been when no service had been held. I went around the building to see if I could find the office to find out when services would occur. How terrible I had walked the 5 minutes over—my Western schedule mentality was annoyed there was no indication on the Website it wasn’t being held.

A maintenance worker greeted me and asked how he could help me. I told him I’d been hoping to come for noon Eucharist and he graciously asked if I wanted to go into the sanctuary to pray.

Why, yes, I said.

He let me in, turned on the lights, and instructed me how to turn them off when I left.

The sanctuary is beautiful—a mix of new and old—stained glass, gilded murals, soaring arches and movable chairs, altar, lectern with modern paintings, sculpture. The baptismal font is especially poignant—a actual melding of the new and old.

The sanctuary was still set up for the Candlemas service on the previous day, or the service in honor of the presentation of Jesus at the temple. The chairs were set up in the round, with five candles in the center of the circle. I walked around the sanctuary, looking at the new exhibit of modern art. I prayed, thought, sat down in a chair, got up, a bit restless in the quiet and empty place.

Then I thought I might like to sing and dance.

Copyright Photo by David Yu/Flickr

Photo by Sharon Geigl

While I’m an outgoing person, I am not one to burst into spontaneous song and dance. I love dancing and would love to be classically trained in ballet or be in a liturgical dance group. I participated in a worship movement interactive reading for Pentecost at my church in Norfolk last year, which was wonderful, but not really quite liturgical dance. I’ve never been good at spontaneous dance and much prefer choreographed movement, like ballroom, swing, tango, etc.

But, no one could see me and judge my unoriginal or awkward movements. So I pulled out my laptop, thought of Mary and her presenting the infant Jesus and being greeted by Simeon and Anna—strangers who burst into exuberant proclamation—perhaps musical, we’re not sure.

My favorite modern interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat is Jennie Lee Riddle’s “My Savior’s Love Endures.” I’ve wanted to have someone (perhaps my former student and my friend Kelsey Riggs!) choreograph a piece to this song. I “encouraged” my students Alex Hilton, Hannah McCormick, and Carson Dunlap to learn the song, which Alex then performed in a class film setting the Mary and Joseph story in a modern American high school. (Hollywood film makers, we’re ready for an offer…)

But I—non-singer, non-dancer that I am—turned the music on as loud as my little laptop would go, and both sang and danced. The sanctuary is acoustically marvelous, and my voice filled the space as I waltzed, pirouetted, pique-turned to the Lord.

A little breathless, I then sat and sang along to Red Mountain Church’s “All Things New” and “Sanctus.”

I prayed a little more, the words of the songs in my head.

Come Lord, and tarry not;
Bring the long-looked-for day;
O why these years of waiting here,
These ages of delay?

Lord, my student Marcella who I fear a likelihood of not graduating from high school.

Come, for Thy saints still wait;
Daily ascends their sigh:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”:
Dost Thou not hear the cry?

Lord, my student Keesha, abused by a relative. Do you hear her cry?

Come, for creation groans,
Impatient of Thy stay,
Worn out with these long years of ill,
These ages of delay.

Our finances, our future, our families.

Oh, come, and make all things new;,
Oh, come and make all things new;
Build this ruined earth;
All things new.

The world, the hurting world.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your Glory,
Hosanna.

Okeanos IV/Copyright Kathleen Holder/kathleenholder.net

In the Lord’s economy, prayer actually changes things.

He has done mighty things 
Holy is His name.
Fear Him whose mercy reigns. 

"Out of Darkness into Light" Kathleen Holder, exhibited at the Cathedral during Advent.

In the Lord’s economy, I’m a musician and a dancer. In the Lord’s economy, my small efforts become great praise.

My soul does magnify
The greatness of the Lord.
On me His favor lights
In my Savior I rejoice.

So sneak into a church or chapel alone with a little music. And turn it up loud and join me in praising our God who makes all things new, our Savior, whose love endures. Forever and ever.

 (All italics are from the three songs quoted, all words copyright by the artists. Visit their websites and discover some of the best worship music I’ve heard.)

 

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