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One Woman's Opinion

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Epiphany at Christ Church

Urbanna, Va.— Last week I attended a glorious spring Sunday morning service at Christ Church. But I was feeling sad. In all fairness to my priest, Father Paul Andersen, I should have worn a sign warning him: “I dare you to cheer me up.”

The historic church was calming, as usual, and serene; it is a colonial church with a history as long and complicated as Middlesex County. I never sit within the cool, white painted, wooden pew-brass chandeliered ambiance without what Proust called “remembrance of things past.”

Looking out the beautiful Palladian window beyond the altar and into the green depths of a giant magnolia tree, I can always connect with yesterday, and especially with memories of my father who is buried in the churchyard.

by Mary Wakefield Buxton
The organist began playing the “Naval Hymn.” I have never sung this hymn without weeping a bit, for my husband was in the Navy, lived four years “in peril on the seas,” and I have seen many a ship disappearing over the horizon with my husband on board while I stood on shore holding a baby in my arms.

Then, I am a natural born crier; always have been, I cry at funerals, parades, when I hear bagpipes, see soldiers marching off to war, or if I happen to witness anything that is sad.

It doesn’t have to be any huge sadness to trigger the tears. A baby sparrow fallen to the ground will do, a starved dog limping along the roadside, a recently grieved widow wearing a smart red jacket to church, a simple awareness that someone in any group has been hurt, and especially the look of dear and loyal husbands  appearing exhausted after a hard week’s work.

There was so much sadness in my heart that Sunday morning; worry about the nation in the hands of an inexperienced president in a very dangerous world, massive national debt that seemed hopelessly spiraling out of reach, a local priest who had died at the mere age of 50, my aging family members and friends struggling with health problems, the loss of beloved ones, and even a week of rain without much needed sun.

The list went on and on. It seemed to me on that Sunday morning to be a world of sadness and everywhere I looked I saw even more evidence of human suffering.

I heard the homily, the eternal positive message of Christianity, that there is a God that loves and cares for humanity, a plan for life eternal, and that simple faith would carry us through the many valleys of life. The words were sweet and good and they lifted my spirits. As I walked to the altar to share communion, drinking wine from a silver chalice, letting the wafer melt in my mouth, I began to feel better.

Religion is a very rich and necessary salve for the many wounds of life; a refuge in a materialistic world where the smart set often denies the existence of God, and there is little solace.

I went back to my pew and knelt in prayer; to ask only that my personal grief might be lifted, so that I might present to the world words of optimism, so that others might be comforted and encouraged.

It was at that moment that an elderly man tenderly held the hand of his ailing wife as he led her back to her seat after communion. He was grey-haired, dressed simply in summer garb, as was his wife, and I could see in a glance that they had been married many years and that they shared a long life of deep love and commitment to each other.

I was struck with the beauty of this sight as I looked up into his face and saw such an expression of love and devotion.

And I saw that the world was filled with much love and devotion, and there was so much love inside and around us that we humans could barely fathom the great and swelling depths. And, that in spite of the many serious troubles in this world, that this deep reservoir of human love would never end, and that it was great enough to carry us safely to the end of our journey.

And, that all of us are here on earth to help each other. To love each other. For what man who knew another could help but not love the other? Such thoughts permeated my mind and with such profound emotion, that I could not help but shed even more tears.

Later, I saw it for what it was; an Epiphany at Christ Church. Perhaps not as eloquent as those that the great writer James Joyce wrote of, but it was enough to last forever. ©2009

posted 06.17.2009

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