Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Heavenly City in Our Midst

Yesterday we celebrated the 45th anniversary of the dedication of the Abbey Church. Monday evening began the vigil, complete with holy water, a darkened interior, and the lighting of the candles. Entering into the sanctuary in the monastic processional, the gloom was broken only by the cantor's surreal voice illuminated by the occasional lighting of a candle. The enveloping darkness gave one the sense of being transported back in time when light was not all-encompassing and the descent of night brought with it a sense of dread.

As we slowly made our way into choir, for the first time I found myself seated on the east side--usually reserved for the monks. As Abbot John wafted the incense in our direction, I inhaled deeply--trying to take in all the sights and sounds of an atypical Evening Prayer. The scripture lessons spoke of building--passages like the one in 1 Peter where Jesus is described as the "cornerstone." By the time we got to the continuation of the celebration the next morning, the candles on the altar continued to pierce the darkness and as Fr. Fenton read that apocalyptic text from the book of Revelation the picture of four walls descending from the heavens did not seem all that far removed from reality. For a few moments, cosmic reality penetrated our everyday existence.

Liturgy has, as one of its key components, reading ourselves into the story--but doing so in such a way that the "bentness" of our world comes in contact with the heavenly realities. We are "enacting" here below that which is continually being re-enacted in heaven above. All language breaks down at this point. Mythos runs headlong up against Logos. Nevertheless, worship points us in directions that hardly seem possible--transporting us, not so much to heaven above, but somehow bringing heaven down into our very midst. And as it does so, we become the assembly of the crucified and risen Savior--our very lives broken and restored for the sake of the world.