Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 8, 2011

The Office of Birds, the Chant of A Child

Every  morning I awaken to the call to prayer.  A Cardinal calls quite before light has broken from the chains of night; his notes high and clear in the stillness beyond my open window, like a bell note bringing day.  After the antiphon has been intoned Sparrow choirs chant each verse in turn; the Cardinal providing a kind of counterpoint, a punctuation bringing them all together.  Jays sing hymns above and all around the choir monks, raucous, exuberant creatures dancing before the Lord as He enters His temple.   I imagine them in a woody nave, a chapel of oaks and maples echoing and re-echoing the call to worship.  At about the right time, as light floods into the world they all join in a great Benedictus:  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel for He has come to His people and set them free!  I do not want to move except to join them in their Office of the Day and fly like a bird to the Lord in my soul.

If I am lucky, as I was today, I will find myself at Holy Mass in the great church downtown at Noon whose old white altar at the back of the Sanctuary rises in my mind like a gathering wave or a snow caped peak.  Among the quiet people at their work of prayer, the scholar and the madman, the judge and the judged, the beautiful and the beaten, the good God will often place the youngest of children among us in the arms of their young parents.  At the best of times their voices will sing out high and sweet their joy and delight.  So it was today during the reading of the Gospel and Father’s short homily after.  I did not hear much of what he said since I was listening to the melody being sung behind me, a new voice lifted in day’s fullness to God who grants us everything and sees that it is good.  When I am there I am always reminded of another church deep in the gray canyons of Manhattan.  I have not been there in many years, but I remember all of us, millions of us there, a vast assembly and a Child in our midst offering the most pure song.

It is coming on to evening, now, and a soft rain falls.  On a slender branch not far away a robin keeps watch on her nest.  Three young ones wait for her return and softly call, mere whisper in the still shadows.  She turns her eye towards me and stares.  Now, the antiphon is begun.  Now the choir sings its first notes and response is heard down the nave of trees, into the roof of clouds and beyond.  The mother on her limb just above me turns away and raises her clear voice in her own Magnificat.  United to the will of God she returns to her softly calling young ones.  I feel the cool rain falling, and go inside to listen and to pray.

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