A hurried ritual, and coming up short.

For a number of reasons, it’s been a fairly chaotic week. After my week of blissful, gentle relaxation with my parents, I returned to work and hit the ground running. This job can change by the second – one phone call can shatter a precision-planned day; a task which should take half an hour explodes without warning and takes four or five hours. Lunch gets eaten at ten o’clock or four o’clock; databases crash and notes are left undone and this morning’s now scum-covered coffee finally gets swigged (followed by a gasp and strangled noise of revulsion) after the meeting that should have finished at ten which eventually staggered to a halt at half-twelve.

One of those weeks.

It’s been a frantic week. I’ve tried to take moments of stillness, to stop and breathe and check in with my body and my mind. To find moments of grace, and gratefulness. But there really hasn’t been time. My brain has barely stopped; my body has barely stopped. Which is why I wasn’t surprised that when I arrived at the Cathedral to hear Evening Prayer before my rehearsal I bobbed a quick genuflection in the aisle and hurried quickly to the side chapel.

It was only when I got to the side chapel that I was brought up short by the realisation of what I’d done.  My body had made the observance to the altar, the acknowledgement that I was in a holy place, a place sanctified, set apart. That I was somewhere special, a place of prayer. My mind hadn’t, though. My mind had just rushed me through the small ritual like it was just one more task to get done. So, facing the smaller altar in the side chapel, I stopped. I took my time in genuflecting. Not only did I bow my body in acknowledgement; I also bowed my mind. In that action I deliberately breathed in the living peace and stillness of the Cathedral; I allowed it to permeate my roiling thoughts, to slow them.

It didn’t stop the demands of the day, of course. The gentle hiatus of Evening Prayer, with its comforting rhythms of recitation and readings, was followed by a rehearsal just as wonderfully demanding as always. But that simple action, of turning towards a created representation of the Lord’s table  and the presence of the Divine, was just the reminder that I needed. A reminder to slow down. A reminder to breathe. A reminder, wherever I am, to bow my soul in acknowledgement that I live and dwell within the Source of my being, the Creator of love and life.

Tomorrow will be just as busy as today. Sunday’s singing will be just as demanding as tonight’s. But maybe, just maybe, I can remember to find space within them to acknowledge the Sacred around and within me – space to just be.

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