Monday, June 13, 2011

Sacramental Moments: Unexpectedly Dismal and Unexpectedly Renewing

The dismal moment came in the most outwardly ordinary of circumstances in which longed-for grace is anticipated.  The simple offering of bread and cup during a morning communion service in my home church, marred by the expression on the face of the man holding the bread, ridiculing what he erroneously perceived to be my lack of attentiveness.  I left almost immediately, and spent several hours struggling against my most unhappy reaction to his gaffe.

The renewal came late at night.  My high school class had been celebrating its 40th reunion on our campuses in Massachusetts this past week-end.  Although a friend and I had made mutual promises five years ago to be meet there this year, I found, when the time to make plans arrived last winter, that I could not even consider the idea.  Josh is a graduate of the same boarding school, and my most recent and vivid memories of western Massachusetts now involve the times I spent with him there.

Last night I received a FB message from her, this woman with whom I have had  only the most sporadic communication over the past four decades:

Today I went to Northfield and walked to the back of Wilson [our dorm, and Josh's as well] and stood by the end of the little garden wall (where others from our class had left flowers yesterday), looking over the campus and the valley. I prayed for your son and you. May God bless you and keep you, may His Countenance shine upon you and give you peace. 

We know her final words as Aaron's blessing from Numbers 6 in the Hebrew Bible.  Those of us who are Northfield girls also know them as the Northfield Benediction, which we sang in chapel (daily attendance required in those years before the girls' and boys' schools merged and other matters were given precedence over religious education and observance).  We sang them at Josh's funeral, and they are now sung to the same music on occasion by by home church choir.

And so.  The hoped-for moment of peace in church on Sunday morning was not realized, but it turned up on Facebook late at night.


  1. oh, I'm sorry for that ugly thing at the Table. I'm glad for the words of your friend.

  2. How surprising and wonderful that something that is usually so superficial was used for a moment of grace.

  3. Unexpected grace...a lovely prayer, indeed

  4. Just goes to show you that not all moments of blessing and holiness are found in church. But then, I know you already knew that...

    And for some reason, your blog does not want to tell you I am me. :-]