I just celebrated a Big Birthday! Somewhere in my lists of oughts and shoulds, I had been imagining that I would have a new Mission Statement with clear aims and goals for this occasion and part of my life. Instead, I was traveling for fun, coming out of an intense period of focused care-giving and attending to both daily and cosmic need. My heart and mind were muddled rather than at peace. I was delighted to be away from the daily bombardment of news of disarray and sadness, and so it was a journey toward tranquility that took us on a drive up the St. Lawrence River out of Quebec City, devouring and savoring the beauty of the fall colors just beginning to turn.
Our first stop was the cathedral of St. Anne de Beaupre. The entire edifice is dedicated to Anne, in legend the mother of Mary, mother of Jesus, and was beautiful in every way–color, light, design. It was for us truly a sacred space. However, the great gift to me amidst the physical beauty was the inscription over the large statue of Anne, declaring: That my joy may be in you. The same inscription in French oversaw the pulpit on the opposite side. I was stopped in wonder, love and praise. I wondered when and how often I has been in a worship space, a worship community, that invited me to be in Joy. I have seen many other churches and cathedrals that have invited me to stillness, to awe, to reverence, but I could not remember such an explicit invitation to Joy.
As the journey continued, both inside and out, I became aware that the Joy comes, not in big pronouncements or agendas, even Vision Statement, but it comes in the attention to the graces and invitations that were offered to me each day. Some were sheer beauty–fields of canola and leaves turning read and yellow and purple. Some came in laughter over new discoveries and shared amazement. Some came in questions raised by what we saw in museums, on sidewalks, and river fronts. And some came in knowing my body well enough to be able to say, “I have taken in all I can accommodate today.”
It brought to mind a quotation from Marvin Hiles that I have carried around for many years: To live sweetly in the bitter days, to shape beauty among the grotesque, to exult in the littles, and to declare in the midst of brokenness a wholeness that comes now and ultimately. God’s joy in me in the daily, in the moment and in the long haul.
As I journeyed home from my trip to Canada, I found that graces and invitations were all around–a Taize service that centered me, a planning meeting that energized (!), the joining of two friends of mine who had not known each other previously in a justice project, opportunities to walk with love ones in distress. Not always joy, not always happiness, but Joy.
This week, as if to add an exclamation to my findings, these words came from Celtic Daily Prayer II, by Andy Raine: These are the days for noticing the small things, establishing trust and saying things that need no words. In the miasma and stench of rhetoric in the public sphere these days, I am cheered by the prospect of an alternative narrative, one that allows for and leads to Joy, and even invites me to be a bringer of the Joy of the Holy that is in me!
Elizabeth is one of my favorite, gifted wordsmiths. This is the word of God. Thanks be to God (and Elizabeth)
Thank you for the image of joy in a worship place. I go tomorrow to the 150 anniversary of the church where I was ordained in Boston and your telling of the words in St. Anne’s church will be in my heart.
Love every bit of this. Thank you, Liz.
Linda Hart Stone said:
I’m grateful that Ellie reposted your notes!
You always bring such a gift of blessing in your words.