I was deep in academic thought today, working on the next grant proposal. Grant writing is an art and a science and generally, it tends to consume my consciousness until a phone rings or there is a knock on my somewhat closed door. Today, it was St. James church bells that caught my attention. Specifically the refrain of “Sing, my tongue the glorious battle.”
I have to admit, I love my office…and the view it offers… and I am going to miss it when we move to a new building in a few months. I have a lovely view of both Temple Beth-Ahaba’s dome and St. James’ Episcopal Church spire. I am including a picture to illustrate this lovely, ecumenical view. It suits me, since my spiritual views do tend to be expansive. But, in the years since I have lived and worked here, I have become officially Episcopalian in the eyes of the church and, more importantly, in my own personal faith and worship community. I still haven’t added it to my Facebook page, but maybe someday soon. So, I recognize with some irony that my office view has come to have meaning and significance for me just in time for me to let it go.
Back to today’s small point of light, though. Today, the chime pulled me in. I must have been tuning out whatever refrain marked ordinary time but the Lenten update was absolutely captivating. I have come to love plainchant for its ordinary simplicity. It allows one to be drawn to the words, to be brought deeply into their meaning without the sentimentality of rousing melody. It allows for a juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity that I find delightful. In this particular hymn, I immediately took into my mind the first lyric:
Sing my tongue the glorious battle
Of the mighty conflict sing
Tell the triumph of the victim,
To his cross your tribute bring.
Jesus Christ, the world’s redeemer
From that cross now reigns as King.
Reigning while being executed?
Singing in conflict?
These are the quandaries of life. Whether we take in these stories as literal or allegorical, we are caught in the juxtaposition that really does mark the human experience. Even my pending office move seems to bring these seeming conflicts into clear focus.
I do need to get back to my grant writing. Its an interesting contrast to write in this manner at the same time. But stopping to acknowledge and embrace the seemingly divergent pulls of life truly does make me at peace with myself, with the elusive work-life balance, with the complexity of being human. I didn’t ask to hear this song today, but the melody found me nonetheless. I will miss my office chimes. But I suspect the melody will still be with me…