From the Bodemuseum Basilica
I have a date every Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m., (soon to change to 9:00 a.m.) when I celebrate Mass in Saint Mary's Chapel at Trinity Church. It is always a small group of people, but it is satisfying. There is always a sermon, that at times takes on the dimensionality of a discussion. This morning it was Jeremiah talking about the messianic return of remnant Israel to Jerusalem, a remnant that included social misfits (the blind, the lame, those with child, and those in labor). The Gospel, from Mark, is a healing story, with Jesus healing the blind Bartimaeus, thus literally ushering in the messianic age that Jeremiah comments on and dreams about. So we discussed this, and the discussion centered on how difficult it is for some of us (mainly me) to deal with beggars and street people (this in spite of the excellent lesson given me by Fr. James Tramel in Berkeley). The sermon ended, we confessed the Creed, and said the prayers - praying for ourselves to be more open to the suffering of our fellow human beings. We shared the peace, and I went to the altar to prepare the gifts.
Ernst Barlach - Der schwebende Engel
After preparing the gifts, I looked up, ready to intone: "The Lord be with you"...and there he was. A black man, clothed all in black, with medallions from rosaries and other religious items arrayed on the blackness of his hat and his robe. He sat in the back and was intense in his taking in the altar and the actions there. "And also with you" came the reply, as we continued on with the eucharistic canon. He was there through the whole action, sitting by himself, but not separate - a part - hovering - a bit like Barlach's angel. It came time for the communion, and I invited him to come and share in the gifts. He moved up to the altar and received the Body and the Blood, and then remained there for the final prayers.
After the dismissal, we all usually dissolve into banter and news sharing. And so I introduced myself to this person from the street, who had graced us with his presence. He smiled and shook my hand. I asked him, "and what is your name?" "Israel." (I was dumstruck - was he the remnant?) And then he thanked us and left. As he floated through the door of the chapel, and back out onto the street, I turned to my friend, Michael, and said, "An angel!" Michael agreed that we had both been given a gift.
William Blake - The Angel of Death
After my coffee at Peet's (I'm grieving the loss of my Royal Grounds place, just down the street from Trinity), I walked back up the hill in my cassock with the New York Times under my arm, as I do every Sunday morning. As I rounded the corner onto Gough Street, I caught sight of a great deal of activity in front of the gothic apartment building across the street. A fire engine and ambulance both had lights flashing, and a small crowd was gathered around firemen kneeling on the ground. It was then that I realized that they were hovering over a man who had fallen, and were administering CPR. Five minutes went by, then ten, and then fifteen, and then the man was loaded onto a gurney, and taken away - with no sirens.
Part of me wanted to rush up and anoint - but life was more important, and the anointing of the fireman was more of a salvation at that point. I stayed to the side, and prayed - for the unknown man, and for the team that was desperately trying to save him. Soon they were picking up things, equipment, personal belongings, used items, and went away. Two women remained behind, who did not know the man, but who happened to be there when another angel came to take him away. Angels of presence, they stayed with him until the end. I asked if I could help them in any way. One said, "thank you" and got into her car and drove away, and the other and I looked at one another and began to cry.
Another angel? Yes, and more than one. The firemen, the women, the ambulance staff - these were angels in deed. I thanked God for them, that in his final moments, this man did not die alone. And then the thought hit me, as I recalled the tears just recently shed with the blonde woman who had stayed to the end - I was an angel too.
Extraordinary gifts on a Sunday morning