Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.*

*from the Ash Wednesday Liturgy, Book of Common Prayer.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Circle of Time

Our intellects insist that time marches forward in a straight line, but our hearts know otherwise: time goes in a circle.

You can hear it in the way we speak: "I've come full circle," we say when the wisdom of our heart breaks through to our minds, and we know that the way things are working out is good and right.

And, of course, time does run in circles--actually layers upon layers of interconnected cycles. We find these at all levels in the physical world: the seasonal cycle, which comes from the cycle of our world around the sun, the lunar cycle that governs the tides, even multi-year cycles in the climate, such as the el Nino and la Nina oscillations in ocean temperatures.

But there are inner cycles as well, cycles in our bodies and cycles in our souls, and this deep truth is reflected in all of our religions. On Wednesday this week, Christians will enter a new phase of their own annual cycle and begin Lent, the forty-day period preceding Easter.

Lent is a penitential season and one way that liturgical churches observe this is by "putting the alleluias away" during the season. The word itself is dropped from the prayers and from the music, and unless somebody makes a mistake and bursts out in a spontaneous "Hallelujah!" it won't be heard again until Easter.

Since we will soon be putting away the alleluias and the hallelujahs, I thought I would share with you my current favorite version of this one-word hymn of praise. Many of you probably saw KD Lang perform Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" at the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The lyrics begin like this:

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
that David played and it pleased the Lord,
but you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this:
the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift.
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah! Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

Here is an earlier rendition by KD Lang, which, with its passionate and keening quality, seems perfect for one last Hallelujah before Lent.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Most Remarkable Sound

I've been hearing an incredible sound in the last several days. I'd not heard it in all the time we've lived here, nearly seven years now.

It's the most remarkable sound in the world:
the sound of silence.

No traffic, no planes, no buses, no trains. Nothing but an occasional gust of wind, or the muffled patter of falling snow.

Silence. Nothing at all but silence.

During the day, things liven up a bit and I might hear scraping noises, as people shovel their drives and dig out their cars, or even voices as they laugh and joke with their neighbors.

But once darkness falls, and the last few souls who ventured out go back in, the silence returns.

As everybody by now has heard, Washington DC has received a tremendous amount of snow. Here in my hometown of Arlington, a close-in DC suburb, we've had 50" in the last week and a half alone.

The end of this sequence of strange storms appears to be arriving soon. Within a few hours, the storm system will move on, and the city and its people will slowly begin to recover.

Roads will be cleared, cars will be started, buses and trains will run again, and the airport will open. The silence will, slowly and surely, be replaced with the more normal sounds of this city I have come to call home.

I am already working on carefully putting away the memory of the remarkable sound I heard this past week. I'm filing that memory away in the place where I store my reserves for days that are not so silent, days that are likely to be loud and boisterous and stressful.

Those days are sure to come, and when they do, I plan to go to my reserves and find that place, the one where I've tucked away my memory of the world's most remarkable sound.

And I will listen to it again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010