November Night Prayer

On November 3rd, sometime early in the morning, we turned back the clocks here on Cape Ann for the winter. All of sudden, our evenings have turned dark. Though the sunsets are as brilliant and beautiful as ever, they begin now around 5:00 and it’s almost completely dark by 6:00. I’ve begun that folding in process in my soul that happens to me in late autumn, a sort of drawing in of breath and spirit. If I were a bird, I would be settling down into a warm nest, and curling up for winter, spiritually speaking. Of course, we are coming into one of the busiest times of the year for pastors and churches, anywhere, with the approach of Advent. Even though Advent is a contemplative, penitential season, we don’t generally remember to pay attention to the soul rhythms that change with the loss of evening light, and the lengthening nights.

The last thing I want to do this time of year is make noise. I love the autumn’s quiet, the soft fall of leaves, the letting go into the deep earth, the shrinking of the vegetable bed in the garden, the touch of frost on late blooming roses. And I feel it difficult, really, to find words for the things that happen inside as the year draws in, and Advent steals toward us. A soul shifting, like a gentle breeze rustling the cedar branches. This is the beginning of my 12th year in this parish, and each year, I grow to love the place more, the people, their lives, the landscape, the sea. Tonight, I was blessed to spend some time with one of our older members in the last few days of her life. As always, this is one of the greatest privileges of being a pastor, that a family should welcome you at their side, as they wait and watch their mother, as she rests quietly; I see their great love in their eyes, and gratitude for all she has been for them. This elder happened to be a member of one of the early Finnish families on Cape Ann, and her children brought in beautiful Finnish folk music to play for her. She used to dance at Midsummer, in her Finnish dress, circle dances at high summer. And as she lay there, and we listened to the music, and held her hands, I could see her dancing still, in a sweet green clearing, her kind, lined, worn face lifted to the sun. When I left them, and came out into the dark November night, I carried the peace we all felt at her bedside with me. Here’s a prayer to go with this night, from our prayer book’s Compline service, now called Night Prayer: “O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” May the Lord grant her safe lodging, and holy rest, and peace at the last.

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