Saturday, September 15, 2012
Lift High The Cross
Well, this has been a tiresome week for me. Getting knocked on my butt by an illness made getting back into the swing of things, especially giving massage therapy, a real challenge. Every night I was coming home thinking how wonderful it would be to crawl under the covers and get a good night's sleep. And every night I realized, "Damn, my day isn't over!" If it wasn't rehearsal for Faust, it was PFLAG, and tonight it was going to see a play that I had agreed to do a couple of pre-show talks about love in families as the official spokesperson for PFLAG-Tallahasssee.
And amidst all of that, I am getting myself psyched up to present my spiritual autobiography at my EfM group on Monday night. You'd think by now this would be old hat. I've already done my SA at least four times for EfM, and twice for two different spiritual directors. And some of it is "old hat" that way. But what's not that old is that each time I do this exercise, I am struck by the fact that I am starting from a different place in my head as the beginning point. This time around, it's getting influenced a lot by some of the things I have been exploring in myself during these days of lying in bed with a fever. Illness kept me separated from my spiritual community. And that separation has made me think about why I am going to church at all.
Perfect timing for a holiday such as Holy Cross Day and my re-entry into the practice of worship at the noon day service at St. John's.
The rector was serving as the celebrant for the service. And in a moment of spontanity, he asked me if I thought it would be a good idea to get the retired organist, who doubles as the altar guild at the service, to play "Lift High the Cross." Needless to say, as one who readily acknowledges the presence of hymns in my spiritual journey, I wasn't about to refuse the opportunity to jazz up the service with one of the old standards. And so Roger slipped on his piano playing shoes, and our mighty congregation of five sang our hearts out:
Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
Til all the world adore his sacred name.
As we sang, I reflected on my morning of massage. I remember noting that the sunlight entering the room at one point had formed a cross-like pattern beside the table. I hadn't remembered that it was Holy Cross Day, but seeing this sunlit-formed image in my room instantly gave me a sense of being re-membered into the body of Christ, and that feeling of taking the gift of Love granted through Christ and sharing it in the session with my client. The cross serves as that visual reminder that focuses my intention, and connects me to the ancient practice of the laying on of hands. The director of my massage school used to call us "the royal priesthood of the church of the phalanges." He'd make us wave our hands and wiggle our fingers as if we were holy-roller Baptists. And as much as he may have been joking about it, I believe that our director was making a serious point. We are practioners of something truly sacred and in the line of Christ and other figures throughout Christian and other religious history where our hands are the vehichles for change and healing in the body. This is not a practice to be taken lightly.
What does this have to do with the spiritual autobiography? Along with the prominent role the hymns play in my story of this journey, attending massage school is a pivotal piece. It was the place where I began to really reconnect and deepen my relationship with God. And it was done outside, in a labyrinth cut into the grass; not in a pew inside a church. The back area of the Florida School of Massage served as my cathedral and my communion took place at the center of that labyrinth. You'd think such an experience might make me a pagan. But it did not. Instead, it opened me up to hearing the God-language as depicted in Christ's words in the scriptures. Familiar passages such as from John, with the lines about, "In my father's house there are many rooms," took on greater meaning as I contemplated the anatomical structure of the heart with its many chambers, and how walking a labyrinth was a way to get to the center of this heart, this symbol I had in my head for God. I think without the experience of the labyrinth as a side benefit of my massage therapy training, I'm not sure if this current journey would have begun. Or at the most, I don't think I would have been ready to meet and be met by God in the way that I have.
God is still working God's purpose out for me. Clearly, the cross is part of that purpose.