A Lady of Sorrows

23 Dec

Come not to the Father for comfort, but to the Mother, my lady …Mary

After a day of walking pilgrimage, I produced my soul upon the steps of The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for mass on Sunday evening. When I walked in, breathless with five minutes to quiet myself, I was shocked to find mass already in progress. Furthermore, they were saying the Our Father, a prayer which occurs near the end of the celebration.

I panicked.

I walked down to the Bethlehem chapel from the main sanctuary. Nothing, just contemplation. Then, I made a confused and hurried visit to the docent at the help desk.

“Ma’am, where and when is 5:15 mass?” I said.

It came out almost like a child. I didn’t mean to be so upset, but this visit was so needed, so important. I had prepared all day, journeyed through streets and metro to get there on time, and now….nothing. She explained to me that 5:15 Vigil, even though its listed on Sunday, means the night before: Saturday. The only Sunday evening mass occurs at 4:30. I had missed it.

I was so let down, so disappointed in myself, so upset. Then, she did something incredibly loving and kind. She reached across the desk, took my hand in hers and said, “Go somewhere quiet my child, and pray. Our Lady will guide you.” She squeezed my hand and said, “God bless you”. I nearly wept at her kindness. The church was open until seven she had told me, and it was just after five. So as I turned with tears in a choked throat, the only place I could think to go was Our Lady of Lourdes. It had been a very special place for my former husband and myself. On a summer trip to DC, I had shared the shrine with him, especially this chapel, this most holy, most special place. We lit a candle together in the medieval chapel during that visit. Tonight, in that same place, I prayed for comfort, for release. And I had no words.

What was given to me was a quiet grace. The words mattered not. My presence was the prayer. Love is simple. So amid candles and incense and the deep quiet peacefulness of holy presence, I went to my knees at the gate, gazed into one of Her many faces, and let go of this place of my past. It no longer held the quiet significance it once did. And when I left, I left him there, too. What he was at the beginning, what he became at the end.

Eventually, I wandered upstairs. No place seemed comforting enough until I came upon Our Lady of Sorrows. Suddenly, I knew I was home.

Is there any sorrow equal to my sorrow?

No, my Lady, there isn’t. But let me sit inside this grief and we will mourn together. Hope dies, but she has to in order to rise again. The hope of salvation in love, earthly love, must die. There is hope, yet, though. She lies entombed in the winter, in the snow, a pale new bud frozen in winter stillness. I sat in the small green marble chapel, breathed in incense and dwelt in sadness for a long while. I gave Our Lady my tears to hold and trusted indeed that I might be blessed.

I miss dwelling in spirit. I miss dwelling in hope.I go home tomorrow and I will abide. I will simply abide.

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