(Light from a stained glass window in the Saint Martin Chapel on a priest’s locker door.)
This morning, during morning prayer in the cathedral’s Saint Martin Chapel, an extraordinary event of grace occurred. We clergy meet in the chapel with a few parishioners every week day to say morning prayer and evening prayer and the Holy Eucharist- daily commitment of an hour and a half or so. Sometimes it is mystical, gorgeous and stirring. Sometimes it is annoying, dull and monotonous. Generally, for me at least, it is what I bring to it. Like the conversations we will have as a cathedral on October 11 (in the Art of Hosting event we are calling the Dream Together Conference,) the daily offices are containers for what God is doing and where what God is doing meets our longings.
This morning however, a miracle occurred. It was a moment of grace, at least for me. I was leading the office (we call morning and evening prayer “offices” of the Book of Common Prayer) and we were saying one of the psalms (we say 6-12 each day). We say every psalm in the book of CommonPrayer in each month between the two offices….so there are lots of psalms each morning and reach evening to recite. I was in a crabby mood. I had not had coffee. I had not had breakfast. I had not had my sitting practice nor had I done the Daily Sip. So I was cranky. As I was saying the psalm with the others in the chapel, the thought popped into my mind “This is boring. What does it have to do with real life?” I could feel a calming hand on my psyche. I calmed and opened my mind beyond the chapel doors. And then something wonderful happened…
The homeless people who were our guests for a breakfast in the cathedral on Tuesdays were milling around in the hallway outside the chapel doors. Some homeless men were discussing their lives- loudly. They were shouting at each other. A fight was brewing. Passions stirred. Their voices began to invade our chapel service. One wall and some leaded glass separates a bunch of pious psalm chanters and a bunch of angry homeless men. We could hear each other. And suddenly, as if in answer to my earlier question, the two sets of voices became one litany rather than two conversations…
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Hell no I did not get my check. I got O*&%^&*$ nothing,
How am I going to pay for my phone card? You eat today? Coffee was great.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
I will deck you if you say that again. Seriously, I will *&^*^&%$ deck you!
I need a ride to Saint Francis Center. It’s early, we can walk. My stuff is there.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
It was a good breakfast. Life *&%^%#$% sucks when I get that hungry.
I know. It’s gonna be hot today. Damn. You got smokes? …
The struggle of life can be raw, exposed and vulnerable for the homeless as for the pious.
Hearing their struggles in among these words from the 51st psalm was enough to remind me that God is present in our struggles and that for 2,000 years humans have struggled to survive and mouthed off to God through the psalms.
Sustain me indeed. Sustain all of us, Good Lord.