Her tears had subsided, but she still lay with her head pressed close to Blaise’s chest. A soft peace descended around them in the cab of the truck as they sat, light rain falling all around. It was too wet and too dark for photography or feeding ducks, so they just sat in the stillness until a bell rang calling parishioners to mass.
“Do you still want to go, Harper?”
She sat up, wiping her eyes and cheeks once again. “Yes, I think I would like that very much. I must look a mess, though. It is candlelight, right?” She smiled.
“You look fine, and yes the dimness should cover all.” He smiled then walked around to the other side of the truck to open the door. He only had one umbrella, but since it was just drizzling, they opted to chuck it in the truck bed and make a run for it.
The chapel, old and small, was decorated simply with some pine boughs on the window sills and many candles scattered around the perimeter of the room, down the aisle, and across the altar. There was no light except for the candles, and the warm glow felt like a gentle invitation to a sacred space. The chapel probably had seen hundreds of celebrants come and go over the years; but in this moment, in this place, Harper felt like the chapel was decorated for her alone.
Blaise and Harper took a seat near the back. The service began with a couple of traditional carols led acapella by one of the monks. Blaise joined in the singing, but Harper just listened. She thought that if she dared try to sing, she would cry, so she just sat and drank it all in. Part of the service was done in the traditional Latin, led by an elderly monk, hunched over and seemingly in pain. But when he spoke, his voice filled the room. There was some kneeling and rising, and Harper tried to follow as best she could. Blaise helped coach her along. Though she didn’t understand it all, there was a sweet presence to enjoy, and the time passed quickly. Near the end of the service, a lay person rose and read the Christmas story out of the Gospel of Luke, followed by a brief homily in English from one of the monks whom Blaise knew. After that, a young monk walked to the front with a guitar and began to lead the group in a song from the Psalms. She did not know the music, but the words sounded familiar to Harper because as little as she had been reading her Bible of late, when she did, often it fell to the very scripture the young man sang.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the LORD will take care of me.
Harper bowed her head, and as the small group of parishioners sang, she whispered again and again, “Hear, O Lord, I am crying with my voice. Hear, O Lord and have mercy. Answer me. Do not forsake me.”
At the close of the hymn, communion began, and people went into the aisles for their turn to partake. Blaise and Harper slipped quietly out the back and walked to the truck. The rain had stopped, but the cobblestones still glistened wet. Blaise opened her door, but reached behind the passenger seat and lifted out a backpack instead of letting Harper get in.
He pulled out a small brown loaf of bread. “Harper, if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to serve you communion. I thought you might not feel comfortable there, even though to be honest, the monks probably would not have minded. Is that okay?” Harper didn’t say a word, but she nodded.
Blaise passed her the loaf and asked her to break off a piece. He did, as well. “Harper, His body was broken for you. Not just for some legal pardon of your sins and not just for Harper the generic Christian who lives in a little duplex in the desert. His body was broken for the beloved and wounded Harper, for the disappointed woman who has lost her creative vitality to the brokenness of this fallen world. His body was broken for you—the you who cries for answers and soul healing, who weeps for all that has been lost. Take, eat, Harper; be made whole. His body was broken for you.”
She raised the bread slowly to her mouth and ate, and Blaise ate, too. He then pulled a little glass jar of grape juice from his sack and held it before her. “This juice symbolizes the blood that was spilt—poured out for you. Bruised and battered, our Savior was forsaken, and He knows that you have felt forsaken. But I think He wants you to know that He never left you. Though your prayers seemed to only hit the ceiling, and though comfort has been long in coming, He has heard every prayer, every groan. He never left you, Harper. Even though you felt alone, and even though His people have not been reliable comforters, He has saved every tear you cried. He has cried with you. Even though it has felt like it, you have never been alone, and He invites you back into deep conversation. Take and drink, Harper, in remembrance of His blood shed because of His great, great love for you—not just the great wide world, but for you.”
Harper raised the juice to her lips and drank as tears filled her eyes once again. And when Blaise took the juice to drink also, she looked to the sky. Big soft flakes of snow touched her face and started falling all around. The sky filled with the white wet flakes, and Blaise and Harper began to laugh. She twirled in the flurries. Blaise grabbed her hands, and they danced and twirled and laughed as snow fell faster and faster, covering the ground. Time stood still as they danced and twirled.
And they worshiped.