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At the Center of the Heart

At the Center of the Heart

O God, who have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin, August 15, 2014)

God sat upon God’s big, white throne.

God sat staring out the window alone

not seeing the superstrings and quanta, the quarks and the gravitons, not

seeing the gamma rays and x-rays and the dark matter, not

seeing the galaxies and the suns, the stars and the planets, not

hearing the drumbeat of time nor the music of the spheres, not

witnessing the dances of asteroids and meteors and comets, not

appreciating the wonder and the beauty that sprang

forth from God’s word, from God’s Big Bang.

God sat upon God’s big, white throne,

God sat staring out the window alone

at what only God could see;

God sat listening

to what only God could hear;

God sat witnessing

what only God could understand;

God sat appreciating

what only God could answer;

God sat pondering the question

at the center of the human heart.

God heard that question arise

from women and men, from girls and boys of

every tribe and language and people and nation;

God heard that question asked

by each of them, in his or her own native language —

Parthians, Medes, Elamites,

and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,

Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,

Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene,

Romans and Jews, Cretans and Arabs,

Angles and Saxons, Inca and Aztecs,

Iroquois and Dutch, Celts and Chinese,

Inuit and Swahili, Vikings and Fijians —

in their own languages God

heard them speaking the question

at the center of the their hearts.

God heard that question arise

from priests and shamans, prophets and philosophers of

every religion and sect and theology and denial;

God heard that question asked

by each of them, out of his or her own terms and conditions —

Law and Obedience, Relationship and Sinfulness,

Light and Shadow, Existence and Meaning,

Disease and Death, Poverty and Wealth,

Suffering and Satisfaction, Sacrifice and Service,

Time and Eternity, Rebirth and Completion,

Intimacy and Loneliness, Despair and Joy,

and even feelings and thoughts and emotions

the asker could not or would not name —

in their own terms and conditions God

heard them speaking the question

at the center of the their hearts.

God rose from God’s big, white throne.

God rose and walked out the door alone,

passing through choirs of

angels and archangels, and

all the company of heaven,

as they lauded and magnified

God’s glorious Name.

God passed out heaven and walked upon the earth;

God walked in gardens at the time of the evening breeze;

God among stones of fire and in the midst of flames;

God stirred up seas so that their waves roared;

God marched in the tops of trees and strolled through the grass of the fields;

God sat upon altars,

placed his feet on temples,

stood atop pyramids,

climbed the steps of ziggurats,

rested in secret places,

housed in Holies of Holies,

visited public sanctuaries,

spoke to prophets and priests,

gazed on household shrines,

sat in people’s kitchens and at their dinner tables,

stood in their chambers and at their bedsides,

guested in workrooms and in their parlors; and

heard them speaking the question

at the center of their hearts.

Brooklyn Museum: Archangel GabrielGod returned to God’s big, white throne.

God returned and God called, “Gabriel!”

Robed in white, wings aflame,

a sword of righteousness in his angel hand,

Gabriel answered the holy summons:

“Here am I. Send me.”

Gabriel stood before God’s big, white throne and asked.

“Lord, should we strike with the sword?”

“Put your sword back into its place,” answered God.

“I have heard the question

asked in the tongues of mortals

and even of angels.

I have heard the question

ringing in the noise of gongs

and the clanging of cymbals.

I have heard the question

pursuing prophecies that will cease,

craving knowledge that will end.

I have the heard and there is

but a single answer to the question

at the center of the human heart.”

Gabriel stood before God’s big, white throne.

Gabriel stood and trembled, anticipating

a mighty tempest, with peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, expecting

a devouring fire, melting wax, refining silver and gold, awaiting

an earthquake, splitting mountains and breaking rocks.

A sound of sheer silence filled the room;

in a still small voice God said:

“Go to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,

to a virgin engaged to a man whose name is Joseph, of the house of David.

The virgin’s name is Mary.”

Gabriel stood and trembled, questioning

at the center of his angel’s heart,

“Why, God? Why this? Why her?”

God sat upon God’s big, white throne,

God sat staring out the window, not quite alone.

“Gabriel,” God said in that deep quiet voice,

“She alone can make the choice; she alone

of all flesh has heard me speaking the question

at the center of my heart.”

Gabriel stood and trembled, greeting

“Hail, thou that art highly favored,

the Lord is with thee:

blessed art thou among women.”

She questioned; he explained.

A sound of sheer silence filled the room;

in a still small voice Mary said:

“Be it unto me according to thy word.”

And Gabriel stood and trembled, sighing,

and relieved, departed,

still, perhaps, unsure of the question

at the center of his angel’s heart.

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

The Answer to the question

at the center of the human hearts,

however spoken, however phrased,

or never spoken, never phrased,

was in the beginning with God.

All things came into being through the Answer,

and without the Answer not one thing came into being.

The Answer was in the world,

and the world came into being through the Answer;

yet the world did not know the Answer.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors

in many and various ways by the prophets,

but in these last days he has spoken to us the Answer,

and the Answer became flesh and lived among us.

The Answer grew and became strong,

increased in wisdom and in years,

and in divine and human favor, but

sometimes wondering, sometimes asking,

“Simon son of Jonah, all of you,

do you love me? Do you place me

at the center of your heart?”

before returning

to the center of God’s heart.

Fra Angelico 046.jpgAnd Mary sat upon her chair crafted by Joseph;

Mary sat staring out the window alone.

Mary, who had birthed the Answer,

from the center of her womb,

treasured all these things,

at the center of her humble heart.

The Rev. Dr. C. Eric Funston is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio, an EfM mentor, and a writer of Daily Office meditations offered on his blog, That Which We Have Heard & Known.

Fra Angelico 046” by {{creator:|Permission=[1]}} – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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