Friday, December 12, 2014

the healing touch

You got there late, as is your habit, character flaw, or constant misjudgment of time constraints. St. Paul's Cathedral. Downtown Syracuse. The Hadley Chapel, a dusty taste of Olde England or late 1800s America. Four men, including yourself, scattered in straightback, wicker (?) chairs, a priest at the altar. She invites all to join her around the table. Communion. Co-union. Eucharist. Thanks. The men look sad, you think, but upon reflection find that a misperception. Sadness, yes, but a calm, subtle smiles, serenity, a hunger. You wonder, does the priest feel threatend by these four men in this cramped space? No sign of it. Besides, the sense of spiritual surrender perfumes the air like incense. After the Eucharist, the priest asks you, "Do you want the healing? You were late, and . . ." "Sure, I'm always up for some healing," you interrupt (another habit or flaw or branding characteristic). She walks up to the front. You kneel at the communion railing with its cushions. The priest, who happens to be the rector of the Cathedral parish, tells you how even if you were not present earlier, the fruits of the healing service were yours to taste. She has a small container in her hands, the holy chrism. She asks if there is any need or person you want to mention, on whose behalf you want healing extended. You are caught by surprise. You can't speak. You can name (or not name) dozens of people, endless needs, candidates for unction, salve, and balm. The emotion embarrasses you and you check it, contain it, at least outwardly. "Josephine," you say. "My mom, 98," you get out. The priest anoints your forehead with oil. Her hands touch your forehead. She lays her hands on your head, firmly, not superficially. She holds her hands on your hair, on your head, saying prayers of healing, invoking Christ to heal, repair, comfort. It's not so much the words. You may even have misheard the words. It was the human touch. You wanted to empty yourself by sobbing. Of course, you did not. (How indecorous would it be?) But this hearty touch. And when her hands lifted, you were lighter. Residual moisture rimmed the corners of your eyes. Did she know? You wondered, what if this were the moment your mother died? Does it matter? All would be well. All things would be well.

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