We were late, after the Nicene Creed. But we were just as welcome whether we professed a set of any beliefs or not. Who is "we"? My daughter, 13; her friend, 14; and I, 61. Why were we late? (What is this, the Inquisition? The Inquisition is a favorite topic of anti-religionists, and rightly so. Of course, the anonymous touch of hospice caregivers, whether atheists or believers; the drunkards' welcome; the Samaritans' feeding of the hungry: these headline-hidden, quotidian acts are beyond inquisition and definition and category, but they are perhaps not as galvanizing for debate.) We were late owing to fatigue or lack of longing or just-plain habit or genetic determination. Go figure.
I wondered: Why here? Why now?
We had missed the Gospel. We did not hear the clarion call of good news, but our ears may have been too sleep-sodden to be roused. We heard no sermon. No one preached at us or to us. And I felt that as an absence, a missing out on erudition and insight.
As my mind wandered, looking out the window opening to the garden holding ashes of the dead and gone, the flowering crab apple, the trickling water, the redbud, in autumnal array -- a place where I will "rest"? -- I seized on the collective nature of the Eucharistic enterprise, the union of encomium. Where else do I (or anyone) do anything as a community? A sporting event, a lecture, a rally, a speech. Eating at the mall food court does not measure up to that, not quite. So, yes, we were there as a body, albeit with wandering minds and beliefs and disbeliefs and varying degrees of discrete charm of the bourgeoisie. The same can be said of lemmings, you say? I'd have to research that. And can you tell me whether lemmings are "happy"?
The Eucharist itself was a salty bread, not the papery wafer of my youth, when it would stick to the roof of my mouth as stubbornly as papal bulls cling to dogma and doctrine. A shared and silent meal. A respite among the hungry, the tired, the poor in spirit, though not poor in pocket. I sat in the pew after chewing and digesting this. And I tried to think of what? Nothing. No thing. Just tried to be grateful, in obedience to Eucharist's etymology, if nothing else.
And while we stood for the final hymn, I was suddenly nudged, elbowed by my daughter.
Look, and you shall see!
To the left, the shock of the new, or at least the unexpected: at first I figured it for a calico cat soft-pawing among the dead, among the quick, among the leaves of those left. But no! A red fox! Vulpes vulpes. And then just as quickly gone. An apparition? A natural nativity of nowness? A benediction of mirabile visu?
Amen to this sacrament of the ordinary, this all-too-predictable surprise brought to us by St. Charles Darwin & Company Ltd.