Veni Si Amas

September 13, 2014

If Wisdom had a voice,
it would sound like the old pipe organ upstairs,
The rich and candid sound,
Is unmistakable,
and carries with it
the history of all its year
with every note,
Easter Vigil,
Christmas Mass,
and every Sunday in between.

 

And even now, in all the stillness

as I sit on a tired-out pew near the back of the sanctuary
if I listen hard enough,
I can swear I hear organ notes
from two years ago
still chasing each other
through the nooks and crannies
of the convent chapel
to remind the weathered stone
that some things,
never change.

The  stained glass window

fractures the late afternoon light
into water color paint
spilled on the marble floor
that is sure enough of itself
that it doesn't need to mix
to make new color.

Dust motes swirl
in the painted light
glittering bits of broken stars
only visible
during select times of
day.

The upholstery  on the kneelers
is the same wet-tree- bark brown  as the robes
that the statue of St. Francis
is wearing on the left side of the altar
and though the Sisters here are Franciscan,
their habits are the color of
the sky when the sun has risen
but is not yet visible above the housetops.
A tranquil grey
not yet giving way to blue.

In front of me, and to the left
sits a little nun
all clothed in pre-dawn sky
her veil is black though,
the color her habit would be
a few hours closer to midnight.

Sister Consolata told me that if you live in the convent
for long enough,
even though all of the sisters look the same
from the back,
you can tell who is who
by the way the habit clings
or the veil falls
or the shoes squeak
or the shoulders spread,
or the way hands clasp in prayer
but as I have yet to inherit this skill
the nun in front of me
remains beautifully
anonymous.

And we are in separate worlds right now,
her and me.
I am amongst the weathered stone.
And brown kneelers,
and anticipation of dishes to wash later.
She is  in the world, and not of it,
in a place no one else can touch
(maybe there are clouds the color of her habit there)
where she speaks to the God she married.

She has a prayer book sitting next to her
all dog ears
and colored ribbons
musty pages that can't help but whisper when they turn
small print
and a spine that cracks
almost as much as my own.

The bottoms of her shoes are scuffed.
Mostly the toes
and not the heels.
Either she is light on her feet
or she spends a lot of time
crouching
next to the little children
at the Sister's school.

She is young.
Her hands are unwrinkled
as they clasp at her rosary beads.
Though her face remains hidden,
I can hear the whisper of a breath
that sneaks through her lips
that haven't worn lipstick for seven years
at every "Glory Be".

Her posture is one of reverence
head bowed
hands clasped,
back straight.
Her posture is one of concentration
shoulders clenched
feet still.

The very existence
of such sisters:
their laughs far softer than the pipe organ,
their cooking,
their imperfect and crooked-toothed smiles,
their twilight games of frisbee on the front lawn,
their reverence and concentration
poured into every,
single
mandatory afternoon prayer
communicate a higher power to me,
far better than any long-winded
explanation of the Divinity of Christ.
The very lives they live
communicate cosmic secrets
far removed from our ordinary days
of five o'clock traffic
and coupons for milk.

As I watch
even the most elderly nun
lower herself carefully,
(like someone setting a final domino
in its place in a long chain)
to genuflect before the altar
and a God she is sure is there,
I think:
if watching that
display of love,
so genuinely felt,
even after all of these years
isn't enough to make you
believe in God
maybe nothing ever will.
 






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