The lights are off in the sanctuary. Maybe I’m early. I find a pew by feel and settle into the hard seat. The windows glow – not the tinted streaming sunbeams of Easter morning, but the jewel tones of Saturday twilight.
I can’t be early. The sign outside said Easter Vigil, seven o’clock. I’m sure it was after seven when I got here. I won’t check the time; that would require turning my phone on. I turned it off when I walked out after supper. “Walked out.” That sounds terrible. I’ll go back. Just … not yet.
He was on the Internet, the little one was crying, the big one, resisting homework. I know, it’s Saturday. How can a second grader be behind on homework? Why does a second grader even have homework? My day was all laundry and housework and shopping and boiling eggs and cooking meals. The kitchen was full of dirty dishes. I said, “You guys color eggs. I’m going for a walk,” noted the deer-in-the-headlights look, and left. I turned my phone off and walked until I found myself here.
The service must be somewhere else. I don’t mind; it’s not people I want tonight. I’ll just sit and breathe in the stained-glass darkness. It smells like a garden in here, lilies and hyacinths that I can’t see. It smells like paradise.
I don’t have real problems. I get that. I’m not living in my car. We have decent jobs with decent health insurance, the kids are more or less normal. I just feel … buried.
The twelve tall windows illustrate a story, beginning with familiar Christmas pageant scenes. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. While shepherds watched their flocks by night. We three kings of Orient are. Stars and angels gave the sign. Most of the faces are white. A few are brown. Some are green. So are some of the sheep. I wonder, would cops be more likely to shoot a green kid than a brown one?
My problems are small. The little one’s teething. Molars, poor kid. I’ll bet even Baby Jesus cried when he got his molars. And no Orajel in those days. Poor Mary.
The story goes on, the young Jesus in the Temple, so smart but worrying his mother. Probably didn’t like being told what to do, like my big one. I look at the next window and the colors blur. Jesus loves the little children, and there’s a toddler who looks like my little one. Then he’s the Good Shepherd, with more of those weird-colored sheep, like cartoon characters.
When was the last time we went to a movie that wasn’t a cartoon? When was the last time I wrote a song, or even picked up my guitar? When was the last time he read poetry? Have the kids ever even been to church? What kind of life is this, running out every morning, working all day, running back in at the end of the day and throwing dinner together, weekends full of chores and errands? Something has to give.
The story continues on the other side, darker but still richly colored. Hosanna, loud hosanna. Go to dark Gethsemane. The old rugged cross. Low in the grave he lay.
Chanting rises from a distant part of the building, drawing nearer.
The light of Christ
Thanks be to God
The chanters are close now, just outside the doors. Soon the lights will come on and break the spell. But they don’t. The chanting recedes. Then a distant organ thunders as if from another world and voices rise.
Christ, whose glory fills the skies
Christ, the true, the only light
Above the altar, a gold-robed ascendant Christ seems to reach out of the glass, the cross already behind Him. On either side, people of all nations look on in awe; red and yellow, black and white. Green. At His feet, angels watch over children at play in a field near a broken cannon. Ain’t gonna study war no more.
That Golden Age has not yet come. The world has bigger problems than mine, which gives me hope that I can change some of the little things. Evening deepens and the windows lose their glow, but my soul has been dyed in stained-glass hues. It’s time for me to catch a bus home and exclaim over Easter eggs. I can breathe again, and it smells like paradise.
Copyright 2015 Karen Eisenbrey
First published in Wherever You Roam (Slim Volume 2)