In a city known for progressive thought and action, it is often reassuring to find time-honored tradition and ancient truth.
Last night, after a Sunday afternoon enjoying good company on my parent’s magnificent back deck,
I decided to walk up to St. Mark’s Cathedral about a mile from my home to hear the Office of Compline.
The church doors shut. I laid down in a warm wooden pew next to a mother and her curly-haired daughter and closed my eyes.
(St. Mark's Cathedral at night)
For over 54 years, every Sunday evening, Seattlites and vagabonds have gathered up at St. Mark’s Cathedral to listen to the Office of Compline.
(The St. Mark's Choir, compliments Seattle Daily Photo)
In unison, the all-male, white-robed choir leads us out of the tangled details of our day and to a divine, faith-filled rest.
People of all ages sit in the pews, sit on the alter, and lay on their backs facing heaven. The rules are gone. Homeless and well-heeled, students and professors, lovers and lonely; we all are joined by the music and our humanity under the Grand Composer.
I was taken back to a morning when I lived in Florence. I got up at 5:30am, jumped on a bus, and shuttled out of Florence to a church just outside the city limits called San Miniato al Monte to hear the morning vespers.
(San Miniato at Monte, Florence)
Legend has it that St. Miniato was an Armenian prince who was making a pilgrimage to Rome. He only made it as far as Florence, where he decided to become a hermit and was therefore persecuted. He was brought before Emperor Decius for punishment. The Emperor ordered him to be thrown to beasts in the Amphitheatre, but the panther refused to devour him. He was then beheaded, but supposedly picked up his head, crossed the Arno (the large river in Florence) and went to die in the cave of Monte alla Croci, where the church now stands.
San Miniato al Monte has one of the most beautiful Crypts, where every morning the monks wake and sing/chant the sun into the sky. This is where I sat that morning:
(The Crypt of San Miniato, compliments of Flickr)
There is nothing like it; grounded in a crypt 1,000’s of years old, listening to voices of men who have dedicated every cell of their lives to God. My heart swells and is lifted out of its mortality and into Hope.
Hope is not far away; last night it was as close as St. Mark’s Cathedral.
Services are free and open to the public, and podcasts of the music can be found here.