Saturday, September 6, 2014

lavishing love letters

Mama Lightbearer

Yesterday was Mother Teresa's feast day.
And needless to say, I missed Kolkata with all my heart and soul.
So, naturally, I made my way up the 6 train to the Bronx to find the Missionaries of Charity's small little house. As I approached East 145th Street, my heart begin to beat faster and faster.
When I saw the unassuming brick building with an iron fence in front of it, protecting a large, smiling picture of Mama T, my face broke out into a large, indelible grin.
And then, I saw two figures in white saris walk out of the building, down the road.
I paused, a brief moment, in awe of these familiar, beloved silhouettes.
Then, I ran after them, still grinning.
A policeman stared at me, and I ran past him, still grinning.
I slowed down to a normal human walking pace and called out: "Sister!"
They stopped, turned to smile at me and then the chatter of excited voices began, reunions and recognitions caught up in that happy chatter.
Devastated, I realized that I had just missed "Mass for Mother."
So, I contented myself with stopping in the dark church for a bit with the sisters, and then walked back towards the subway stop.
Feeling rather robbed, I threw myself a tiny mobile pity-party while a very unhappy lump form in my throat.
I was so sad that I had missed Mass. This may have been due to the fact that once a month women often feel violent bouts of feeling for no apparent reason, but meanwhile, I allowed myself to feel fifty shades of sorry for myself.
But also: this just wasn't any day: this was Mother's day. This was September Fifth. This was a day to go to Mass and think of the cool stone floor of Motherhouse chapel.
As I walked along the street, I thought once again of the sisters, robed in their white and blue saris and their halos of peace that surrounded them. And I couldn't help but smile.
With that smile, the entire scene of the Bronx street around me was transformed.
The tall, dreary buildings were no longer hateful.
The men walking by were no longer potential threats, they were beautiful images of Christ.
The women and the children playing the park were Christ.
The boys laughing on their front doorsteps were Christ.
The high school couple holding hands were Christ.
The woman looking out the window of her apartment smiled at me, and I smiled back, and Christ was present there.
As often as I ran to Christ in the Eucharist, I must, I remembered, seek Him in the faces of my neighbors on the street.
This--I remembered--was the real secret of Kolkata. This, I remembered, was the reason that I miss Kolkata each and every single day.
Because, there, I felt my eyes learned to see differently.
They learned to see clearly, rather than through the veil that I hang to separate myself from the world outside.
That smile, brought about by the sisters, ripped an opening through that veil, and I felt that I could see the world clearly once more.
In Kolkata, the Eucharist had not been fragmented, kept safely inside myself, inside my heart, inside a Church.
In Kolkata, the Eucharist had spilled over, out of myself into each person that I met.
This, I remembered, was the real beauty, the real joy that keeps tugging at my heart with little sharp pricks of nostalgia.
And so I (of course) popped into a church to say thanks for the reminder.
I walked inside the church nearest the subway stop, and my jaw dropped.
It was as if I'd walked across the Atlantic Ocean, into a Church in Rome.
My heart fluttered inside of me as I admired the unexpected beauty of the church all around me.
While I stood there, stunned by the beauty, I noticed several couples, elderly ladies, and mothers with small children trickle into the pews.
Could it be...?
Is there going to be a...
And then a small bell rang, a priest walked out onto the altar, and Mass began.
Too surprised to do anything but stand there, breathless, I felt waves of peace washed over me.
So this, I remembered, is what gift feels like.

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