Saturday, December 17, 2005

Weekend Wonderings ... Worthy?

There is a very cool Christmas song out there by Amy Grant called Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song). There are apparently various other individuals who have performed this song, but there is something quite haunting about Grant's spare orchestral backing (complete with my favorite -- the oboe); and, quite frankly, I'm not sure how many of the other "professional versions" I've actually heard. When I think of this song, Amy Grant is the person I hear in my head.

A couple years ago, while I was getting back into the idea of religious life, this song was to be a part of my church choir's Christmas concert. I got up my nerve and did the pseudo-audition for it (with the added detail that my brother is the choir director). I had two reasons for doing it: (1) because the song spoke so strongly to where I was at that point, and (2) I didn't want one of the "standard" soloists to merely "perform" it. Silly me, I should know by now to trust my brother. He didn't pick me, but he also didn't pick one of the automatic standard soloists. The woman who sang it was actually in the process of trying to handle her husband's very deep depression, keep the little kids going, and keep herself from falling down in the pit behind him. Her situation led her to put a spirit into that song that far surpassed anything I or anyone else could have done. Thinking of it now still brings me goosebumps.

At that time, I was in the middle of my on-again-off-again relationship with my seeming-vocation to religious life. I'd alternate between ignoring the call and obsessing over it. The Christmas of that concert was the season where I finally "jumped in" and was led just a few weeks later to the monastery web page where the rest, as they say (not that I've written it so that you could say -- one of these days I'll get to it, I promise!) is history.

This song, along with one other, were constants on my stero. "Who the hell am I? I'm not a nun. I'm not all holy and pious. And yeah, while I know nuns aren't like that, there's at least some element of the God-thing. But me?!?!? God must really be smoking something."

But then there are these lyrics .... knowing where Eileen is coming from as she sings this song ... my brother a.k.a. Piano God accompanying her .... awesome oboe lady adding the perfect mournful haunting lost longing whatever it is that only an oboe can add ... all the while listening, singing the underlying harmonies with which we supported Eileen, and thinking of my own fears around this leap I was soon to take ...

I have traveled many moonless nights,
Cold and weary with a babe inside,
And I wonder what I’ve done.
Holy father you have come,
And chosen me now to carry your son.

I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now.
Be with me now.

Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.

Breath of heaven.

Do you wonder as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place,
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.
Help me be.
Help me.

(Chorus twice)
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven.

I think then my thoughts really centered around the first two verses, the fear, the potential aloneness, the sheer terror involved in being "chosen."

I remember being particularly struck by that sequence "Help me be strong. Help me be. Help me." How merely dropping off one word each time turns it into three completely different pleas.

I think my ultimate resting place with the song was in the "I have no clue what you're doing and I think you're crazy for asking, but if you insist, then I guess I have to do it."

Time passes, I lend my CD to someone and don't get it back, and I don't think much about the song.

Until ...

2005 Christmas Concert at some unnamed Catholic high school that happens to have some non-nun as a religion teacher.

Student sings this song.

No oboe, but the spare piano filled out with the absolutely masterful harmonizations by the rest of the girls counts enough for major goosebump potential for anyone.

But then, there also happens to be the aforementioned non-nun listening.

The same non-nun who has been especially plagued by all sorts of non-bloggable nun-related thoughts recently, as she struggles through the transitions of full-time-ministry, no-longer-new-kid, moving-off-the-hill.

The lines that leap out and attack me aforementioned-non-nun this time?

Do you wonder as you watch my face,
if a wiser one should have had my place?

Still too fresh to say more.

The Wonderings?

Thoughts on the song, on the message
on the ability to do or not
on mistake or not
on questioning
On wondering.
(And, on throwing all the really raw crap out there before it's even formulated in here. Definitely not a normal thing for me!)

Help me be strong. Help me be. Help me.


Blogger Susan Rose, CSJP said...

We all wonder Steph, as we wander along. I know I do. But YOUR contribution to the Revgalblogpal book - today's entry in fact - says a lot about. So let me quote you to you:

"But if we stay in the struggle and perservere - 'Always we begin again' - that's what's important.
... No it's not easy. Yeah, we are going to goof up. But we need to keep at it. Ongoing conversion. ... It is the grace of God that has brought us here, and the grace of God that will bring us forward."

We're all on a journey. And the wonderful thing about it, is that we're not alone!!!!

12/17/2005 2:38 AM  
Blogger Quotidian Grace said...

This is so beautifully written. I think it speaks to any Christian who feels God's call in their life.

12/17/2005 9:12 AM  

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