The Only Prayer I Can Manage

10 Dec

Coventry Cathedral

I know the liturgy all too well.

We have worshipped, unwillingly, in this same not-sanctuary.

A cathedral where shells rain down, shattering the stained glass,

and plush velvet cushions on the pews catch fire like tinder.

I try to sit there still. To recite the words I know are expected.

Beautiful words, wonderful words.

Or they were, when the windows were whole, the walls strong, the prayer benches padded with soft, welcoming velvet cushions.

But in this cathedral on fire, punctuated by the crackle and hiss of the flames?

All things are not working together for good.

“Damn it,” is not in the book of common prayer, I know this.

But it is all I can lay on the altar tonight, as the smoke of fear chokes out all else.

In Chartres, when the war drew near, they wrapped the picture-perfect windows and stored them away,

Left the cathedral, marched to war.

Tonight, I do the same.

I hear others tell you all the hope-filled things, and I am grateful.

But I can still smell smoke on my prayer shawl, and it tightens my throat when I try to echo their platitudes.

Instead, I tell you the only thing I know is true, even in a cathedral under siege.

The cornerstone stands.

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3 Responses to “The Only Prayer I Can Manage”

  1. Karen December 10, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    Wow. Just wow.

    • Bridget December 11, 2010 at 7:27 am #

      That’s *exactly* what I was going to say. Exactly.

  2. Elizabeth December 13, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    There is so much to discuss in this piece. I demand a month long Internet course. Your words are powerful and I thank you for them. The end of course allows us to breathe the long awaited sigh of relief, that cornerstone making it all ok.

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