A trick of the eye

Sunday Evening

Acts 1

Glass altarpiece by René Lalique in St. Matthew’s Church (the Glass Church), Millbrook, Jersey

10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

As is my custom, I had my eyes closed and my arms crossed across my chest, bowing slightly as we sang the words “Holy, Holy, Holy” that Isaiah, in his wondrous vision, heard the seraphim singing in the presence of God when the earth shook and smoke filled the temple. It is a simple gesture that connects with many things in Christian tradition, not least with the prophets falling on their faces in humility before the presence of the holy God. That small bow acknowledges – at least to myself – that we, too, are in the presence of the almighty, singing the song of heaven.

As I stood at the altar, bowing as we sang, a shadow passed across my closed eyes. I was a little startled, thinking someone had walked in front of the altar. Why they would do that in the middle of the prayers over the bread and wine confused me. Of course, when I looked up, no one was there.

It was a trick of the eye, I assume. I am, after all, a citizen of the scientific world, cautious about claims about the spiritual world. But that little flicker of shadow distracted me as I continued with the prayers. It made me mindful of exactly what we say about worship – that we are joining the song of the angels – and about the Holy Communion – that Christ is present in the breaking of the bread.

I pray over the pews on Saturday, at least most Saturdays. I ask God to gather his people for worship. I ask God to fill each pew and to touch those who come with his Spirit and grace. I ask God to send his holy angels to keep watch at the doors that no darkness enters. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if I get a reminder now and then that God keeps his promise that, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)


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