One of the things I love about going to San Francisco is Grace Cathedral. A wonderful French Gothic structure, it sits resplendently on top of Nob Hill and I enjoy the steep walk up to get there. (No matter which approach you take you have to approach uphill.) I was enjoying a day on my own in the city after a wonderful weekend retreat in the hills of Los Gatos outside San Jose; it was a gloriously sunny Tuesday morning as I approached the cathedral having completed a walk which included the famous Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf then a stroll along the Embarcadero to the Ferry building where I enjoyed a cup of what is likely the best drip coffee in the universe at the Blue Bottle. Now I was concluding my exquisite morning with a visit to the Cathedral.
As I entered, I immediately encountered a labyrinth something I had forgotten was there and added to my enjoyment; I performed a leisurely stroll seeking whatever guidance the spirit of this beautiful place may have for me, my quiet contentment was somewhat disrupted by a small boy who decided to shadow my footsteps and photographers whose aim to capture their moment did not fully respect the sacred nature of the labyrinth walk, yet surrounded by the beautiful stained glass windows it was still a special moment.
I then walked through the nave of the church to find myself in an annex with a small altar to the Virgin Mary and I decided to light a candle for a dear friend of mine who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and was facing imminent surgery. I found myself kneeling in front of the portrait framing a prayer then realizing this was the first time I had knelt in a church since my visit to Assisi, when I knelt in front of the cross where St Francis had received his admonition “rebuild my church”. (http://wp.me/phAyS-4t) The instruction I had sensed for myself was to “shine my light” and it had helped encourage me to write. It was a very fond memory and brought a smile to my face.
I resumed my tour to find that a small service had started in one of the chapels and without really thinking about what I was doing, I found myself sitting in a Eucharist service (the Episcopalian mass). This had not been my intention; I had thought it would be a sung service which I enjoy but there was no choir so I felt trapped. I thought it would be too conspicuous to leave so I studied the order of service realizing with a shudder that there was even going to a sermon. Oh well, it was familiar territory, having felt trapped in churches every Sunday during my childhood. ( At least I would not have the accusing eyes of my parents compelling me to pay attention.) Then something quite magical happened, this quite lovely priest moved and stood in the midst of the small congregation comprised of various clergy, one elderly woman and me, and began to talk about Easter Sunday when Mary Magdalene at the tomb was the first to see the risen Jesus. As he described the scene he commented on the significance that it was a woman not a man in the male-dominated culture of the time. And suddenly I perceived a lovely metaphysical interpretation of the resurrection myth; it is through our feelings that we must connect with the inner Christos or divine essence. The priest went on to describe Jesus’s instruction to Mary to announce the news to his brethren and left us with the directive that each one of us had the responsibility to “go and tell”. It seemed a lovely synchronicity with my experience in Assisi to “shine my light” and perhaps the guidance I came here to receive. It was immediately followed by another small miracle; we reached a point in the service where we all got up and wished each other Peace. It was perfect! In the confusion I could make my escape. What a perfect day.