Enlighten: Beyond Ourselves

Today, I will close this series of images and reflections from Grace Cathedral with a personal story about my first and lasting connection living into this particular sacred space.

The AIDS Interfaith Chapel at Grace Cathedral is one of my most sacred spaces.  I, like many of us, vividly recall experiences of living and dying in the aftermath of a disease that stigmatized and devastated a generation of thriving and vibrant people.  Many of those who died were also a part of the struggle for equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender expression.  I lost several heroic and beautiful people I loved in the midst of the AIDS crisis.  Sadly, my friends and family were almost all excluded from their communities of faith both in their lives, and in their deaths. 

In my own life, the remembrance of my beloved friends has stirred in me a passion not just for religious “tolerance” but for active and committed inclusion.  Inclusion is a continual call to listen, to understand, and to embrace an understanding Divine Presence as always wider than our own individual systems and structures of belief can fully comprehend.  God is beyond ourselves. 

 In the AIDS Interfaith Chapel, I feel this radical welcome.  It was one of the first places that I felt inclusion at a time where the structures of the institutional church were painful for me, too.  The altarpiece, created by Keith Haring just before his own death, is called, “The Life of Christ” and surrounding this altar are the symbols of many faith traditions, pieces of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and places to quietly reflect and remember.  In this space, in my own mind and heart, I believe that the restless spirits of those I love can find peace, and comfort, and rest. 

I share this poem with all those following this Lenten journey of living into our sacred space today, along with these photos from the AIDS Interfaith Chapel.  I dedicate this post as a tribute to my dear friends and family members Carlos, Michael, Gabe, and Laird along with so many others for whom I pray: Give rest, O Christ, to your servants with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

A Tear And A Smile

I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart
For the joys of the multitude.
And I would not have the tears that sadness makes
To flow from my every part turn into laughter.

I would that my life remain a tear and a smile.

A tear to purify my heart and give me understanding
Of life’s secrets and hidden things.
A smile to draw me nigh to the sons of my kind and
To be a symbol of my glorification of the gods.

A tear to unite me with those of broken heart;
A smile to be a sign of my joy in existence.

I would rather that I died in yearning and longing than that I live
Weary and despairing.

I want the hunger for love and beauty to be in the
Depths of my spirit, for I have seen those who are
Satisfied the most wretched of people.
I have heard the sigh of those in yearning and
Longing, and it is sweeter than the sweetest melody.

With evening’s coming the flower folds her petals
And sleeps, embracing her longing.
At morning’s approach she opens her lips to meet
The sun’s kiss.

The life of a flower is longing and fulfilment.
A tear and a smile.

The waters of the sea become vapor and rise and come
Together an area cloud.

And the cloud floats above the hills and valleys
Until it meets the gentle breeze, then falls weeping
To the fields and joins with brooks and rivers to
Return to the sea, its home.

The life of clouds is a parting and a meeting.
A tear and a smile.

And so does the spirit become separated from
The greater spirit to move in the world of matter
And pass as a cloud over the mountain of sorrow
And the plains of joy to meet the breeze of death
And return whence it came.

To the ocean of Love and Beauty—-to God.

–Khalil Gibran

Follow this link for more interfaith prayers of hope and remembrance:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/01/world-aids-day-2014_n_6247602. 


Photos from the AIDS Interfaith Chapel, Grace Cathedral

2 thoughts on “Enlighten: Beyond Ourselves

  1. Thank you so much for this moving piece. I did not know about that lovely chapel. This brought back so many memories of when I was working with AIDS patients in the 90s. So many beautiful people lost at so young an age. What a beautiful tribute!

    • Thank you for visiting the blog, and for your comments Sue. Mostly, thank you for the service, and love, and memories that you carry with you from those days and into your present days. That deep compassion is what permeates through that chapel even to those who visit today. May God’s peace surround and embrace you today. Sarah

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