Reverence – noun – 1. Deep respect for someone or something. 2. A gesture indicative of deep respect; a bow or curtsy. Origin: Middle English; from Old French, from Latin reverentia, from revereri ‘stand in awe of.”
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well. (Psalm 139)
From the window behind my recumbent bike, the pre-dawn sky is slowly lightening. My body is still half asleep as I begin mumbling the Venite and peddling slowly. As my limbs awaken to their morning routine, my vision becomes somewhat less blurry as I focus on words of the psalm and readings appointed for the day. “The Lord be with you…and also with you,” in my heart I reach out and embrace the monk in Kentucky, the nun in Montreal, the lay preacher in Boston, and anyone else similarly engaged in praising God this morning; those in the present age, those in the past, those who will come after me. Together we sanctify the dawning of this new day. As I gain energy in my morning ritual, I awaken enough to be aware of the birdsong outside my window and the ignition of a neighbor starting their car, the howl of a distant siren off to confront a tragedy – the sounds of all of creation are waking up.
For a moment I stand in the awe of my creator.
Eucharist at Sext
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1Corinthians 11:24-26)
A break at midday, I join with others who have slipped away from office, shop, home, or field to be fed. I cover my street clothes with cassock and surplice. I place the image of the cross over my vestments. I light altar candles. I process in with the priest and we genuflect before the altar. We recite the words of the liturgy and bow our heads at the sacred name. I make the sign of the cross on my mind, lips, and heart. I kneel and ring bells to honor the real Presence, the broken body and spilt blood of the Lamb of God. We feed on the bread of heaven and drink from the cup of salvation. After being fed, we are dismissed. We genuflect again. I extinguish candles. We all loiter afterwards, priest and half a dozen congregants. We joke or tease each other, we laugh, we talk about the news of the day and the menu for the next parish potluck. We wish each other well, and disperse out into the world. Despite the aroma of incense still in my nostrils as I pull away from the curb, both Baal and Mammon have quietly slipped into the back seat of my car. I cuss loudly at too slow motorists. I obsess over office politics in my mind and envision imaginary dialogues giving those guys in marketing a piece of my mind. I allow myself to be lulled into the illusion of Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace” while averting my eyes from my homeless brother on the street and mumbling something about sorry, but I don’t carry cash. Later on maybe spurred by a cock crowing on a Facebook meme, I remember who I am, how weak I am, and how often I fail.
For a moment I stand in awe of my redeemer.
2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:2-4)
It is just past the dinner hour and several adults sit around a table at a house somewhere in suburban Ohio. Although we are not meeting in an upper room, we are a people who are scared and desperately hoping for God to show up soon. We are scared for ourselves. We are scared for those we love. We are scared on behalf of people we’ve never met. We listen to a video clip of James Baldwin discussing race relations from forty years ago; I am struck by how much still holds true. We speak of injustice. We speak of white privilege and white guilt. We speak of the illusion of race. We talk about what we might be doing for the youth who hang out in the alley down by the Dairy Queen. Clifton, who was at University of Chicago in the sixties, speaks of Malcom X. Abby speaks of the love of God. Gary does not speak because he is not here; he does not show up anymore because he wants us to do something other than sit around and talk. We all pray. There is no howling wind or tongues of flame. However, we are all speaking in different tongues. We speak in the tongues of age, of gender, of national origin, of Meyers-Briggs profiles. Perhaps someone in the dark will hear and find illumination. Perhaps they in turn will speak in their own unique tongue and their little flame will illuminate the dark for someone else. Slowly, just like the tapers at an Easter Vigil, the little lone quivering flames will multiply and light up the dark night.
For a moment I stand in awe of the Spirit.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1Corinthians 13:12)
It is late in the evening now and I am alone in my room. Before I go to sleep, I thank my God for the day. I bring before God my continued worries and concerns. I ask God to watch over me, to be with me in my dreams and in my heart through the night. Like an unborn child in her mother’s womb, I am simultaneously surrounded by and sustained by my God, yet completely oblivious to an understanding of who or what my God is. I know little. I comprehend even less.
Yet even in my inarticulate ignorance, I drift into slumber in awe of the mystery of my God.
Reprinted by permission of the author. If you would like to read further reflections by Jean Cotting, please check out her blog site at: