Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why I Wept...

It comes unannounced. It has no warning signs.

You may be driving and you find yourself miles from the last remembered intersection. You realize at odd times that you have been staring through someone, the bank teller, the cashier, or your spouse sitting across the dinner table. You may be washing your hands and look up into the mirror. For a moment you see someone else, a stranger with your face. You may be holding a half-ripe tomato at the produce counter, and somehow, somewhere inside you go empty, empty as a beggar's plate. There comes a disquieting want within you. It leaves you hollow for a moment and then is gone. You make the turn, cash the check, dry your hands, and you shake off the feeling like a cat-nap and go on, distracted by a magazine cover, a familiar tune, a hastily engaged shallow conversation.

This feeling, like all inexplicable feelings, weaves itself into the fabric of your days. It may be a brief sigh, a momentary sadness, sometimes a deep weariness of the heart. It is not quite darkness. It is not truly light. It is not quite despair, it is not hope. It is not quite fear, it is not peace. It is a vague notion that you once possessed something precious and it is now missing. Or perhaps that you were once possessed by someone precious and it is you that is missing. It is a twinge of homesickness, a feeling that you belong somewhere but are not there; or that you belong to someone but have lost touch. This fleeting melancholy is easily dismissed in the frenzy of the day because it does not paralyze you or cause you to break out in uncontrollable weeping. It can be evaded by turning up the radio, finding a conversation, making the phone call or searching for the perfect tomato.

But in the night, when there are no distractions, no tasks, when there is no one but yourself and all that is in you and all that is missing within you, it is then that the feeling is no longer a vague notion but a troubling and persistent void. It is then that even if you claim to know no God you have within you an empty and hungering place that you fear to name because to name it would be to know to whom it belongs and for whom it hungers. You know with fearful certainty Someone precious is missing. You almost know for whom it is you are longing. It is a lover whose face you would know if you saw it, whose name you would recognize if only you could hear someone speak it, whose heart you know is longing for you.

In perhaps such a night the night the Shepherds, wearied from the ordinariness of thousands of days walking the same hills, lay staring, like thousands of nights before, into the vast familiar sky. And in the night comes one who is unfamiliar, whose presence is at first strange and fearful. But it is an Angel and the fear breaks into wonder.

And the stars begin to sing.

"Hallelujah!"

From somewhere in the ordinary, familiar sky breaks forth Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim six winged, many eyed, soaring aloft on their wings singing "Hallelujah!" for into the vast ordinariness of our existence the One for whom we long has come to take a face, to have a name, to be bread to fill the hunger, to be light to shine in the darkness, to be wine that makes glad the troubled heart of man. "Hallelujah!"

There is one born who lies among the lowliest of all, unremarkable, indistinguishable from ten thousand other humans born in the same night. And yet the angels sing, Hallelujah, Glory to God in the highest!

The transcendence of the ordinary breaks forth from within the ordinary. The glimpse of eternal heaven shines forth from the mundaneness of the earth. Peace and goodwill among men is both within each and in the face of every human.

It is for this we are preparing. We prepare for the transcendent by attending more closely to the familiar and ordinary things of life, to food, to the hungering, dirty face of our neighbor that is before us every day, to our own inner longing for peace and joy. And perhaps on one ordinary day, in an ordinary place, among ordinary people there will perhaps come one who cries "Hallelujah!" and the heavens will break open and all that is ordinary around us and within us will stand up and sing in wonder and glorious unexpected joy.

I think that is why I weep when I watch this.
(For full screen video click HERE)



H/T to Mrs. Josephus (for the video)

28 comments:

elizabeth said...

so encouraging...

Matushka Anna said...

Steve, I had to link to this...

Maureen said...

Thank you!

keith said...

I just bawled like a baby.

Jodie Anna said...

we used to go to that mall often :) What a beautiful thing to do...much better than all the Lady Gaga flash mobs! God is great!

Sh. Patty said...

Beautiful writing. Beautiful singing.

Thank you!

Andrea Elizabeth said...

The text's being indented makes me wonder if you or Mrs. Josephus wrote it. How perfectly expressed.

Arsenios said...

Thank you, Steve. There could be no better preparation for this season...

Mickey said...

Thanks, S-P.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I've probably listened to it 20 times - so far.

Thanks so much.

babushkajo said...

Steve, I have this on my own blog, with credit to yours. I am so glad you shared this with us.

Hugs,
Babushka Joanna

Theocoid said...

Awesome. I just fall apart when I see these works of grace.

Svetlana said...

@Andrea Elizabeth, I happened to post the video on FB. All the credit for the writing goes to Steve. Well done, very beautifully expressed.
Svetlana (aka Mrs. Josephus)

Anam Cara said...

Today was the day of the year when we give coats to the homeless people who come to a Christian fellowship we support. Our home group gave out close to 100 coats that we had bought and took names of some who hadn't been there 2 weeks ago when we asked for their size - or perhaps what we got for them was too small and we need to go get something different.

At any rate, it was a long afternoon, but we knew that when the people left, they were better prepared for winter.

Even so, as I drove home, I had that feeling you so perfectly described. Sad, but for no reason I could discern. I wanted to cry, but why? We had helped people. I was totally exhausted, but knew that sleep wasn't what I needed. I felt empty, but there was no hunger.
I couldn't figure it out.

And then I read your post - and saw the video and I got my "second wind." I was re-energized immediately. And I felt so good that I went back and watched another video that is also encouraging that I had completely forgotten about. And now I am ready to face the world again....

(The other video is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5dSIL358NM)

Anonymous said...

Wow!

Your essay deserves to become a Christmas classic.

berekkah said...

thank you, sir... for the video and the mental context in which to appreciate it. may i post this to my own blog?

s-p said...

Rebbekah, I would be honored to be posted on your blog. Thank you.

Melanie said...

Just what I needed, a good cry when I'm out of tissues! :)

Dana said...

Thank you for sharing this and writing so eloquently about it. I've posted it on my blog, with a link back to yours as well. Love it!

Molly Sabourin said...

Oh my, I've been listening to your podcasts for about two hours now in my kitchen and it has just now finally dawned on me (duh.) that s-p, Pithless Thoughts, Steve the Builder and Steve Robinson are one in the same! I so enjoyed your Ancient Faith Radio pieces and was moved to tears by this beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your reflections!

s-p said...

Hi Molly, LOL! Don't tell anyone, but just between you and me I'm "Moo the Turtle" too. And thank you...

non-blogger said...

I don't know, something seemed somewhat perverse about the whole thing. A churchless people, we are relegated to singing non-liturgical hymns of praise in the middle of Food Courts.

And after the whole thing's over, it's depressing how quickly normal activity resumes... everyone seems so eager to go back to ignoring each other and chowing down on their burgers.

Anonymous God-blogger said...

Thank you, S-P!!!!

I understand and agree with non-blogger's comment YET AT THE SAME TIME I see the beauty and rightness of this--kind of like guerilla art--this is guerilla glory, so to speak!

s-p said...

non-blogger, it is true it was a publicity stunt by a business to drive people to their website. But I think you missed at least part of the point of the whole post: the Nativity of God was that He came into our "food court existence", not a Church. The Angels sang the heavenly liturgy in the ordinary work of the fields among smelly sheep and shepherds, not the ritual cleanliness of the Temple. The "stunt", regardless of its producers' intentions, is a true metaphor for the reality of the Nativity. Whether or not we go back to eating our burgers unaffected after encountering God is everyone's problem. I eat the Body and Blood of Christ and begin judging my brother sometimes within seconds of it touching my lips and by Sunday afternoon, I'm definitely back to business as usual. Anyway, I'm usually pretty cynical about stunts like this, but for some reason this one got me and I had to figure out why. Of course as in all things in life YMMV. Blessed Nativity to you and your house.

oruaseht said...

Awesome vid. I posted it to my facebook feed. It totally encapsulates the Nativity of Christ ~ extraordinary beauty coming into ordinary darkness! Very cool! I greatly enjoyed it. Thanks for posting!

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Thank you for this. That was a beautiful, beautiful description of something that has been so much a part of my human experience, I'm not sure how I would live without its bittersweet strains. (My aunt posted the link to this to my Facebook because she said the writing reminded her of mine--but I've never said this so well.)

Anonymous Coward said...

Steve, I've been aware of the Hallelujah Chorus flash mobs for a few days now, but haven't bothered taking a look. And then today I logged on and saw your post.

Thank you.

Elisha said...

Over 30 million views now....

Awesome.