(an image form the reredos of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, given by the Cathedral for its founding.)
The most wonderful thing happened on Sunday. It was at the 11:15 celebration of the Eucharist. We were all standing during one of the readings. Everything was serene and elegant. Everyone new where their forks and knives were and which one was to be used for which course. The meal was well-ordered. Procession, prayers, first reading, psalm, second reading. Order was established, maintained and enforced, if gently.
Then, like a cloud of joy, a large woman in an outfit not quite as elegant as that worn by most, and in shoes not quite as new as most, with hair not quite as guided as most, and, well, wearing horizontal stripes and wide, glorious eyes which shone with a certain madness of spirit and gorgeousness of soul -this woman nearly danced out into the nave from the back side entrance to the parking lot – the new one which empties a person right out into the nave, at the crossing, in front of the lectern and altar steps. She swooped in like a grounded swan on muscle relaxants. Tall and muscular, she had long legs and long arms which wandered around in a disorderly wonderfulness as she half danced and half walked and even half pirouetted right in front of all of us on the massive oriental carpet reserved for elegant tip-toeing to receive bread and wine. But this woman had massive, flat feet which made no sound, and yet seemed to hit the ground and shake some part of China on the other side of the sphere.
She collapsed into a ball facing me, the celebrant, and the altar, as we all stared at her. What is she doing? Why is she moving when no movement should happen at this point in the liturgy? Why is she doing this during the reading? Is this a liturgical dance? Is she crazy? Is she a mystic? A saint? A lunatic without any lunar activity on this cloudy day?
When she collapsed she gracefully folded into a ball of worship. Her forehead touched the carpet and her massive arms folded around the front of her body like the wings of a seraphim. Poised and still, she prayed or worshiped or begged or pleaded or sought – alone on the massive oriental carpet while eyebrows around the congregation stepped onto their elevators and pressed “up”, but aware of where the “emergency call” button was on the panel of their mind.
As well-meaning people began to move to her, she unfolded like a phoenix ready to fly and for a moment I thought she might. Hoped she would. “Show us” I thought. “Show us, crazy lady, how this should be done.” Eyes wet with tears, I was glad I had no reading parts for a while. I could sit there in my infant-of-prague outfit, wondering if what I just saw was a homeless, crazy woman or a mystic with a lack of anglican decorum. She then stood, pirouetted again in front of hundreds whose eyes had just darted to their bulletins in the hopes that this would resolved itself. She danced and walked and nearly skipped (though I think even she knew that might be too joyful for this Easter service) and found a pew at the back from which she could flash those massive eyes without frightening anyone. She arrived at the carpet again for the prayers of the people; and Liz, with the poise of a mother and the heart of a martyr, blessed her.
I was jealous of Liz. And glad of the reminder of the wonderful people just behind Jesus whose arms flail and bodies wave in their desire to sing to the Lord a Crazy New Song.