One of my favorite “rote” prayers is the Glory Be. I find its cyclical proclamation of praise to be reassuring whether in the midst of something I understand or in the midst of mystery. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be… History, present moment, future.
At times it calls to my mind and heart the promise of the loving, generative, fullness of God that infused life at the first creative Word. It was present then, is here to be found now, and will continue to be on into the future.
At other moments, the prayer is a reassurance of the reality of what is going on now, how ever messy, and that even in the difficulties of humans being who they are called to be, God is active and to be praised. It was messy then, is messy now, and will be messy, and that’s okay…because it is real…and all a part of the journey toward becoming what we have sought all along.
This prayer came to mind last week when I had a chance to see the restoration work happening in the church building where I attend Mass. The past is being revealed in the present moment while looking toward the years to come. What fascinated me was that the whole work seems to be geared toward the unification of these “planes.” The soot, the dirt, the gunk, being stripped away, is what has accumulated between them. With their washing away comes forth the renewed opportunity to appreciate the awe and wonder of the original artisans’ vision of honoring God in an edifice. The leveling of the floor smoothes the bridge so more may cross through “was and is” with safety and ease. And to watch the workers attend to the details with precision and obvious care, there is no doubt to me that the work being done now will last long into the stories of coming generations.
It felt rather medieval, this tour I had. There were workers everywhere! At least four different levels of scaffolding held countless people working on different parts of this act of revelation. There were the sounds of tools, the murmer of conversation, the dull steady thud of hammer and nail… As I noticed newly unveiled decorative details—flower buds no bigger than a large drawer pull on the walls of the balcony, the crisp IHS atop the confessional, the newly scrubbed marble prophetic line-up on the second floor—I could easily imagine church stonemasons of centuries past who spent time carving flourishes for reasons no greater or lesser than the glory of God. Details mattered then, as signs of honor for God as well as pride in craft. Watching the work being done in the church now, I can tell that that holds true in the present as well.
What I can’t yet tell is what it will feel like to be in the space as an active member of the congregation. I had grown accustomed to the space between the planes—being able to readily feel and imagine history into the present if not see it directly. I can imagine that it might take me a while to get used to the new feeling of more immediate convergence. That’s okay with me, though, and all part of the cycle.
And, actually, a gift. How often will it happen that at the same time I get to see more of what was in the beginning while living that vision in the “is now” and hoping it’s around for a fair portion of the “ever shall be?”
Glory be to the journey and adventure that is God which we celebrate as community in this sacred space.