The distracting voices that always rush in the minute I am awake, though still lurking, quieted themselves for a time.
In the readings for the day, I was especially taken by the image of the "New Jerusalem" from Revelation 21:9-21 of a City with gates for all the tribes of Israel and all the apostles of Jesus, with jewels all over the place, with names I cannot pronounce, and the streets paved with gold.
I pictured there must be gates for all the peoples of the earth, and that this is the City where peace and justice reigns, so unlike the world in which we live.
I pictured many friends and relatives who have died, and who are now in this City, beginning with my Dad and my brother. So many people I know, I named as many as I could remember and asked forgiveness for those I could not remember. I pictured their faces, saw them happy and smiling. I found my own peace seeing them in this City, and my own fear of death dropped away in these moments. I waited awhile before praying for the people in this world; I wanted to stay in the City for a little longer, but I was told to go.
With the image of the City still somewhere in me, I moved onto to Luke 1:26-38, the story of the angel Gabriel telling Mary that she will be pregnant with Jesus. "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" she exclaims.
The angel tells her "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."
The line is meant to explain the virgin birth, but I was struck by something else about that line, something more important than biology. I wonder if the Holy Spirit "coming upon" Mary is why her image is so powerful to us still? Mary is changed, she is different, and it is more than being pregnant. Mary is changed forever in these moments. The Holy Spirit takes her form, overshadowing her, the two seem to merge. Maybe this is how and why the Holy Spirit comes to be seen most powerfully in female form?
In the darkness, I prayed she was with me. I prayed she would come to people I know who are sick and hurting, lonely and grieving in this world. I prayed their hurt would be lifted, that they would catch a glimpse of the City, and that my own eyes might help them see the City more clearly. I prayed that their fear will be lifted, and they will find peace and healing and comfort.
The next stop in my prayers was the "Collect" or opening prayer from this past Sunday -- and it mentioned preparing a "mansion" inside us for the coming of Christ. It hit me then that the City is inside me, a place I can touch, a place that is inside all of us that we can touch always.
"Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you," the angel Gabriel proclaimed. "Do not be afraid."