Refuge

St. Mary the Virgin, Times Square This place is engraved in my memory from a couple of visits during my first year in seminary. It’s darker and more hauntingly beautiful than my iPhone camera was able to capture. It also has a deep blue ceiling with stars. In more carefree times I had found it a bit dramatic and overwrought, with its huge statues and icons, its row upon row of flickering candles in the various chapels and nave. It had lived in my imagination as an interesting and quirky yet enchanting place, alluring but ultimately not really for me. 

 

And it would have stayed there, had it not been for my work as a chaplain. Yesterday I made the trek across Times Square, past the over-priced t-shirts and guy dressed as the Statue of Liberty, through the throngs of camera-toting tourists and vendors hawking bus tours and comedy shows and roasted peanuts to its facade on 46th St. I walked up the handful of steps outside the front door and stepped into… a refuge. I stepped into a whole other world, quiet and mysterious, with a hushed sense of prayer hovering in the air. Against the backdrop of days spent face to face with the reality of metastatic cancer, end-stage AIDS and fetal demise, this place no longer felt overwrought, emotional, superstitious. Instead the statues and icons and ubiquitous votives offered me some sort of comfort, some sense that it might not be all that weird to want to figuratively and literally sprawl face down on the floor and hand the whole mess over to God, to just let it all go, to let all of the patients’ stories flow like water out of my hands and away from me.

 

And as if to be sure I knew I belonged in this place, suddenly, music. A requiem. Faure’s Requiem to be exact. A piece I know and love, a piece I have sung, being practiced on the organ. How fitting for the chaplain who sees so many close to death. 

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~ by Sophia on October 16, 2009.

One Response to “Refuge”

  1. Just wanted to thank you for your timely comment on my blog…I’ve found that 10 days in to the endless funerals I’ve hit a wall and am weary in body and soul – read your comment last night, just after a wise priest and friend told me in no uncertain terms to Go.To.Bed.
    So I did…and will continue to stage as many escapes as are possible til this phase is behind me

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