Ecce iam noctis tenatur umbra,
lucis aurora rutilans coruscat...
Lo! the dim shadows of the night are waning;
Radiantly glowing, dawn of day returneth...
At the four quarters stand pots of the Middle
Jōmon, earth, air, fire and water, great coil
pots with lips aflame, in prehistoric splendor.
Each pot stands within the ponderous doors of
its wing of this domed Greek-cross chapel.
Unitarian monks enter, single file, east and
south through bronze doors given last summer by
the mother of a novice who succumbed suddenly
to leukemia. The grateful mother of a son the
brothers here had reclaimed from the street.
Shaved-head monks run fingers crooked and
straight, gnarled fingers of arthritics,
delicate, refined fingers of aesthetes, through
primal fire blazing in the southern pot, then
place hands over beating heart in silent prayer.
At the eastern portal, unshorn monks lower rough
bearded faces, freshly washed of all taint of
sin, to breathe in the sweet, pure air of the
redeemed cosmos from consecrated pot, then carry
this air in their lungs to the altar.
Universalist nuns enter, three abreast, kiss
holy icons of Sophia and Her Daughters, Faith,
Hope, and Charity; north and west through
solid oak doors they come, doors carved
by itinerant artists for food and a bed.
Nuns with virgin hair flowing down their backs
come in by the west gate, dipping tips of
fingers into the pot, then touching pure lips
with the water of life. In the instant of that
touch, their voices open and rise in joyful song.
Through the northern door, nuns with hair
cropped at the scalp come, reach hand into the
sacred jar and lift earth to smudge the cares
and inscribe the glories of this world onto
their foreheads. They enter, naked feet pounding.
Nuns and monks together, rainbow robes a
flowing, form a great circle under the chapel
dome. Oldest monk and oldest nun open darkened
lanterns to bring forth lighted candles. These
they entrust to youngest nun and youngest monk.
Monk and nun together kindle the crystal chalice
on the altar at the circle's center. This
faithful band joins hands together, singing,
dancing their morning prayers to Life, and Hope,
and the unutterable Mystery of being.
Incense, both acrid and sweet, wafts up into the
plain whitewashed dome, hanging, swirling just
below the lantern. "Whatever guilt the night
has brought, now let it vanish into air."
Beautiful feet move gracefully, joyfully.
Sunlight pierces the oculus through, accenting
the smoke of the incense. Rich odors linger
on skin and robes. With light's appearance,
singing and motion cease. All stand in silent
wonder at the day's arrival, its coming.
Wonder fades as light pervades. The circle turns
facing out. Chosen representatives of the holy
community at this Abbey of the Reconciliation,
bare feet beautifully, barely touching the bare
stone floor, run to fling wide the solid doors.
Chalice flame extinguished, the community leaves
rainbow robes of celebration for denim and khaki
garments of service. The sun, whose mystic beams
pierced the chapel oculus, will soon burn off the
fog and dew, will soon demand its sacred due.
© 2009 by Paul Kent Oakley