Farewell Cassini, Thank you NASA

Farewell Cassini, Thank you NASA

Cassini’s trajectory into Saturn

Even though it was a day off, I woke at 6:45, pulled on my old black t-shirt with the solar system silkscreened half on the front, half on the back. It’s seen eclipses and meteor showers. It would bid farewell to the Cassini spacecraft on Friday morning, September 15.

In the kitchen, I began preparing food for a daughter’s visit while watching NASA TV’s coverage of the final half-hour of the Cassini mission.

Ligeia Mare – Sea on Titan (False color)

I listened to scientists sharing their thoughts as Cassini sped towards its fiery end in Saturn’s atmosphere. My iPad, sitting on top of the microwave, streamed live interviews with project scientists and engineers, some of whom had spent entire careers working on the Cassini mission. There were images of Saturn and its largest moon, Titan, with methane-rich lakes and rivers. Computer-generated graphics showed Cassini’s 22 dives into the dark space between Saturn and its rings as well as how the spacecraft would meet its end by entering the atmosphere and burning up.

Cassini’s Grand Finale orbits

I was glad making chili didn’t require much attention because mine was on the screen. The images were mesmerizing. (NASA has made an eBook of some of those images and it’s available to download here.)

While chopping onions and green peppers, I learned more about the unexpected length and scientific bounty of this mission as well as the team’s ability to make changes in orbits and trajectories to take advantage of surprise discoveries almost 900 million miles away.

Narrow jets of gas and vapor from Saturn’s moon Enceladus

For example, when geysers of vapor were found spewing out of the south pole of Saturn’s tiny moon, Enceladus, the spacecraft actually flew through them and analyzed the composition, finding ice particles, water vapor and organic chemicals. Cassini also determined that beneath the moon’s icy surface sloshes an ocean of salty water.

For the last ten minutes of the broadcast, I turned my full attention to the screen. Even from my kitchen, I wanted to be one of the thousands, maybe millions around the world, waiting for that last signal from Cassini.

Where Cassini entered Saturn’s atmosphere

Through the commentary of those who had worked most closely with it from the beginning, the spacecraft had taken on an anthropomorphic quality, doing everything it had been asked to do, right down to the last images sent as it struggled against Saturn’s atmosphere.

The vastness and variety of creation overwhelmed me as the final signals faded. In my kitchen, chili was simmering. On Titan, methane rivers flowed. Saturn’s majestic rings, better understood, still grace our night skies.

Human imagination and wonder have paired with knowledge and skill to give us an extraordinary window into the universe. From ancient times, human beings have marveled at the night sky. Never before have we had such a view.

Saturn from Cassini spacecraftMy response is gratitude for those who have worked so long and hard to provide it. And to bend my knee before the One who creates it. I join with the ancient psalmist in prayer: The heavens proclaim the glory of God/and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands./Day unto day takes up the story/and night unto night makes know the message./ No speech, no word, no voice is heard/yet their span goes forth through all the earth,/their words to the utmost bounds of the world.

 

All images are from NASA

 

Cassini 12 Years at Saturn

The Cassini-Huygens mission was a joint effort of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana. Many other countries were involved in the manufacturing of components.

What’s NASA doing next? Read this NYT article for some tantalizing descriptions of missions already on the calendar.

NASA Cassini at Saturn 

 

Solar Eclipse II: A Reflection

Solar Eclipse II: A Reflection

NASA photograph of the total solar eclipse taken at Oregon State Fairgrounds by Dominic Hart

PHOTO: NASA taken by Dominic Hart at the Oregon State Fairgrounds August 21, 2017

When the eclipse reached totality, the dramatic appearance of the sun’s corona took the crowds collective breath away—stunning and larger than I had imagined it would be. Was it the blackness of the moon that made the corona look so bright, or the brightness of the corona that made the moon’s darkness absolute, like a hole in the sky looking into emptiness?

“The corona’s always there,” I thought, “just overpowered by the sun’s brilliance.”

Only darkness could reveal the light.

Darkness is often used to describe something to be avoided or escaped. It’s a metaphor for what’s wrong in our world or in us. It’s where we don’t want to be. We read about moving from darkness into light, and the spiritual journey is often described that way.

But the eclipse reminded me that when it comes to darkness, it’s not so clear cut. Darkness has an important role to play in creation, in life, and in spiritual deepening.

Years ago, a close friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few weeks later, after having had an inconclusive mammogram, I was called back for a second screening. While waiting for the appointment, I thought a lot about cancer and dying, imagining the worst: Would I see my children grow to adulthood? How well would I deal with the pain and process of treatment? How would it affect my family and friends? Was I ready to face death? And how was my relationship with God?

The morning of the appointment was clear and bright. The prospect of death had sharpened my senses, and on the way to the imaging facility, I noticed everything: the coolness of the air, the color of leaves, the beauty of the city, the crisp, dark shadows on the buildings that made edges sharp and shapes distinct. Without the shadows, everything would blend into everything else. “Maybe that’s what’s meant by ‘the shadow of death,’” I pondered. “It provides definition, bringing life into focus.”

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

The relationship between darkness and light is a constant theme in literature and art. It runs through Scripture. Phrases like “a light that darkness could not overcome” or “calling you out of the darkness into the light” quickly come to mind, portraying “darkness” as evil. But there are others.

The creation story starts out in chaos. God then separates light from darkness suggesting both were present—light in darkness, darkness in light—to make day and night. Neither were banished. Life needs both to work. And God said it was all very good.

In Exodus, God was in the pillar of cloud as well as the pillar of fire when leading the Hebrews out of Egypt, and when Moses met the Holy One face to face, the people hung back and watched from the light as Moses entered the thick, dark cloud because that’s where God was.

Psalm 139 says: “Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.”

God is in both.

The great mystics speak of darkness as a necessary part of the journey. It helps us see what is otherwise missed—like the corona that’s present but invisible. Darkness invites us to reach deeper, to look intently, to accept ourselves as we are. And in the darkest times, we may learn how to sit with God in the night while the Holy Mystery does the work we are unable to do ourselves.

Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Thomas

The coming together of darkness and light during the eclipse was magnificently beautiful, a profound experience that will remain for me an image of the power of darkness to illumine the spiritual journey—a metaphor of the grace found in embracing our darkness as well as our light, and encountering God there.

© 2017 Mary van Balen

Solar Eclipse I: The Experience

Solar Eclipse I: The Experience

After a flight into Maryland and a 625-mile drive to Columbia, South Carolina, I was ready to experience the total solar eclipse on August 21 with two of my daughters, a friend, and extended family. A long trip that was more than worth every mile.

Predictions of thunderstorms at our intended viewing site initiated a quick change of plans. Instead of driving from our hotel in Murrells Inlet to nearby Georgetown, we went to Columbia and met with my niece and her family who were hoping for good weather there for the event.

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

By 12:45 pm we headed to a nearby middle school with a large, open athletic field, and set up our chairs under the shade of a covered walkway. Slowly more people arrived with chairs and pop-up canopies. Some brought picnic lunches and spread blankets under the few trees edging the field. Others tossed baseballs or threw Frisbees, or just sat and chatted.

When first contact occurred at 1:29, everyone stopped what they were doing, put on their eclipse glasses, and watched as the black moon began to slide over the sun. We moved in and out of the field for the next hour mesmerized by the beauty, marveling at the power of the sun that even as it was disappearing behind the moon, kept the air hot and the light bright.

sky during totality

PHOTO: Mary van Balen Darkening sky during the totality

Row of people sitting in chairs holding their eclipse glasses on and gazing at the sky

 

By 2:30, voices lowered, balls and frisbees were forgotten. The temperature had dropped and the sky was darkening.

People moved into the field. Standing or sitting, you could feel the crowd holding it’s breath.

Excitement built as the sliver of sun became thinner, thinner, and suddenly my glasses went black. I pulled them off and saw the sun’s corona blazing out behind the black moon.

NASA photograph of the total solar eclipse taken at Oregon State Fairgrounds by Dominic Hart

PHOTO: NASA taken by Dominic Hart at the Oregon State Fairgrounds August 21, 2017

People applauded, shouted, gasped, laughed, and cried. Some stood in awed silence before the magnificent sight. I did them all and hugged my daughters, grateful to be sharing the moment with them. Words can’t communicate the experience. It was profoundly moving, stirring something  elemental deep within.

Together, the sun and moon, spoke truth: Remember, you are part of something beyond anything you can imagine; you are creatures on a tiny planet in the vast universe.

For two minutes and thirty seconds we were one people, standing together, not in Columubia, not in the United States, but on earth. Boundaries and current national and worldwide issues lost their power to divide. For two minutes and thirty seconds.

Then it was over. Some lingered to watch the moon complete its transverse of the sun. Eventually, people carried their chairs and coolers  back to their cars and left.

Driving long hours back to our hotel, we shared our thoughts. Words continued to fall short, though we tried: amazing, awesome, unbelievable, overwhelming, beautiful, unforgettable, stunning….

In moments of silence, I wondered if the powerful event would change some who experienced it? Will we remember and embrace an expanded vision of who we are and how we live? Of this planet and the people we share it with? Of the Mystery who is the Source of all?

 

Icons: Windows into God

Icons: Windows into God

Photo of Thai stamps showing image of Guan Yin

Photo: Mary van Balen

In Icons: Windows into God, the lead article in the October 2017 issue of Celebration published by the National Catholic Reporter, I expand the definition of “icon” to include objects, physical representations, or metaphors that have become windows drawing us into communion with the Holy Mystery. From impressionistic masterpieces in the Musée d’Orsay, to the Asian bodhisattva Guan Yin, to the constellations, the world full of images that enrich and enlarge our experience of God who is beyond all images.

The medieval theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart said that no one could ever have found God. No, The Divine gave the Godself  away.

There is no place or time where God is not. Holy Mystery does not hide. But to see, we must pay attention—and look  through all the “windows” we can.

Click the link below to read the article:

Icons: Windows into God Finding glimpses of God in unexpected places

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is…

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is…

Photo of a flooded alley

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

Hank is one of my favorite people. I don’t know him well, but I’m getting there. At the end of most work days I stop and talk with him on my way out. We talk about politics and religion despite conventional wisdom that warns against it. He shares memories of growing up in this city, keeps me updated on jazz events around town. I’ve lent him books and articles, and he drops nuggets of wisdom he’s learned along the way.

The other day we were talking about a recent column I’d written, “Rain, an Icon of Grace,” that shared my experience of God’s Grace always pouring over us, refreshing and renewing us, like rain nourishes the earth.

Chair in rain on patio

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

“It made me think of growing up,” he said. “I’ve always loved the rain and storms. Listening to it on the roof or hitting the windows. When I was little, I used to sit on the porch during heavy rains and watch the water pour down from the overflowing gutters along the overhang above my head. I was mesmerized. You know how it is when you are so young. Everything looks big and amazing. The rain looked like a waterfall. I could sit there for hours.”

From there our conversation turned to Grace and the importance of being present to it, like Hank was present to the beauty of the rain gushing down during the storm all those years ago.

“You know that saying,” Hank continued. “Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is Mystery. Today is Blessing.”

Hollyhock blossom in rain

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

I didn’t know that saying. But since he shared it with me, it has become a constant prayer. A reminder of God’s Grace present in the moment and the futility of fretting over what cannot be changed or worrying about things that may or may not happen. I’m prone to do both. Thanks to Hank, the past and the future are less successful at pulling me away from the present. His short saying became a mantra. “Yesterday is history,” I say to regret. “Tomorrow is mystery,” I throw back at worry. “Today is blessing.” I take a deep breath and remember this is so. And remember a little boy soaking it up on his porch.

Breathe Out Gratitude

Breathe Out Gratitude

Up early, I had time for a walk to the Cambridge Tea House before starting my workday at home. I savored every step in the cool morning air, aware that hot summer days are not far off. Usually, when I stop at the tea house, I’m driving to work.  I pick up a currant scone and eat it in the car. Not Friday. I treated myself to a full breakfast instead. And time to enjoy it.

Sun shining on table set with white tablecloth and two red vases holding succulent plants.

Photo: Mary van Balen

“You have your choice; sit anywhere you’d like,” the young waitress said with a smile as she welcomed me into the just opened dining room.  Sun pushing through a partly cloudy sky brightened the white table cloths and red vases topped with tiny succulents. Beautiful. I passed them by, though, choosing instead to sit at a plain, wooden table with lots of extra space since I planned on doing some writing.

Small celebrations feel good inserted into busy routines. Slowing down to join in friendly conversation and to jot down thoughts in my journal help me cope with disturbing news from around the world and in our country, and to remember the good.  Shortly after I placed my order, the owner/chef came out to chat—one of the perks of frequenting small, local eateries. She works long hours in a small kitchen, turning out delicious food six days a week.

Red teapot, tea cozy, teacup, and journal and pen sitting on a wooden table.

Photo: Mary van Balen

Tea arrived in a bright red pot along with a tea cozy to keep it steamy. Even the cup was heated.  I filled it and brought it close to my face, sniffing the aroma of the Queen Catherine blend. I filled a couple pages in my journal. The long table was the perfect size for a gathering of friends. “Invite people over more often,” I wrote, thinking of the table in my apartment.

Breathe in Grace. Breathe out gratitude.

I was already content when the quiche arrived. Too much food to eat there, I finished what I could, poured what was left in the teapot into a paper cup and snapped on a lid,  bagged up the homemade bread, and peeked into the kitchen to say goodbye.

Breakfast of quiche, toast, cup of fruit, and butter and jam.

Photo: Mary van Balen

Ovens were on, freshly baked bread lined a shelf, and pans and utensils covered counter space.

“Thanks, Mary. Have a good day.” She smiled. “Thanks for coming in. Come back soon.”

The two other women working in the kitchen were busy, too, but smiled their goodbyes.

Breakfast. Ordinary. Extraordinary.

Breathe in Grace. Breathe out gratitude. So easy. So easy to forget.

© 2017 Mary van Balen

What Were They Thinking?

What Were They Thinking?

Oil Painting, "The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection" by Eugène Burnand 1898

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection by Eugène Burnand 1898
Oil on canvass
Musée d’Orsay

Last spring, while walking down a narrow gallery in the Musée d’Orsay, I looked into a larger room and saw a painting of two men running through the countryside on an early morning. Their dress and faces left no doubt—Peter and John were running to see if Mary of Magdala was  right.

Different gospels tell the story in different ways. In John’s gospel, Mary arrived at the tomb alone in the early morning, saw the stone rolled back, and ran to tell Peter and the others that someone had taken the body. Peter and John ran to see for themselves. John, the author tells us, looked inside, saw the burial cloths, and believed. After Peter and John returned home, Mary remained, and saw two angels who asked her why she was weeping. She answered, turned and saw Jesus, thinking he was a gardener. Only when he spoke her name did she recognize him.

Luke’s gospel tells of the women of Galilee who had followed when Jesus was laid in the tomb and who returned the day after the sabbath, carrying spices and oils they had prepared. They entered the empty tomb and were puzzling over it when two men “in dazzling garments” appeared and told them that Jesus had been raised, as he had said he would be. The women ran to tell the others who thought they were talking nonsense. Only Peter returned to the tomb in this telling and went home amazed. Then comes the story of Jesus appearing to travelers on the road to Emmaus.

Mark’s gospel has two endings. In the shorter one, three women, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (both mentioned in Luke’s story) carried spices to anoint the body. They found the stone rolled back and the tomb empty. A young man clothed in white told them that Jesus had been raised and instructed them to go tell the others. But the women, were afraid and told no one.

The longer ending includes Jesus’ early morning appearance to Mary Magdalene who then told the others who were “mourning and weeping.” The didn’t believe her. Next, Jesus appeared to two disciples walking along a country road. They also told the others, who didn’t believe them either.

Matthew’s gospel is similar. The two Mary’s went to the tomb. While they were there, the earth shook, and an angel appeared, rolled back the stone and sat on it. The guards “…became like dead men.” The angel spoke to the women, told them not to be afraid, and invited them in to see where Jesus, now raised from the dead, had been laid. This time, the women were both fearful and overjoyed as they hurried to tell the others. They saw Jesus on their way, and he reassured them: “Do not be afraid,” and instructed them to go tell the others. There is no mention of how the women and their message was received.

Interesting. It was women who went to the tomb. It was women to whom Jesus first appeared and instructed to go tell the others. And, in two of the gospels that report reactions, the women were not believed. In Mark’s, neither were the travelers.

Why not? Was it just that those hearing the women’s story had a low estimation of women’s ability to be sensible in times of stress?  Thought they were hysterical, seeing things, or hearing voices? Maybe. Why not believe the disciples who encountered Jesus while they were walking, trying to comprehend the events of the past two days? We’re not told who they were, if they were men, women, or a couple. Simply disciples.

Close up of Eugène Burnand's paintining

Detail of Eugène Burnand’s painting

Looking at the exquisitely painted faces of Peter and John in Burnand’s painting, I try to put myself in their situation. If the one I had come to love, trust, and believe was going to save me and my people from the oppressive Romans, or as unimaginable as it seemed, was God’s own face in the world, if he had been executed by the occupying powers, I would be overwhelmed with emotions: grief, anger, hopelessness, confusion.

And then, Mary comes with a story that’s too good to be true. Words that stir the ashes of despair and let hope flicker again. I don’t want to believe only to be disappointed all over again. I know what’s it’s like to be vulnerable and to be hurt. And to allow myself to become vulnerable and hurt again.

Still, there is hope, and so I run to see for myself.

Gazing at the faces in the painting, I wonder, “What were they thinking? What did they fear? What did they hope?”

And today, as I celebrate Easter, believing what many still consider nonsense, I ask myself the same things: What am I thinking? What do I fear? What do I hope?

©2017 Mary van Balen

The Mug and Me

The Mug and Me

Close up photo of a cracked coffee cup sitting on office desk

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

I fell in love with a coffee mug. Let me explain. It happened on Friday morning at work. I came in as usual, put my lunch in the refrigerator, walked to my desk, lowered my purse into the drawer, and returned to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee. Then, back to my cubicle.

After signing in and switching IM and phone from offline to “I’m here” mode, I reached for the coffee and took a sip. That’s when I saw them—the dark lines of old cracks. Starting at the pitted rim, they formed a cross whose long vertical disappeared into the coffee.

Immediately, a physical feeling of kinship with the mug overwhelmed me. I’m not in the habit of falling in love with coffee mugs or other inanimate objects, but I couldn’t deny the strong bond I felt with this piece of ceramics. It wasn’t even a particularly attractive piece, just the generic, workplace mug, white with the company logo on one side and a sponsoring company’s logo on the other. Don’t get me wrong. I’m eternally grateful that my place of work provides not only free coffee all day long, but also real mugs to drink it out of; no Styrofoam or paper cups for us.

Still, compared to the collection of mugs that fill my kitchen cupboard, this one was plain. It wasn’t handmade, wood-fired, or a memento from a special place. But, it had my heart.

It was the cracks. The mug and I, we’ve been places and have the scars to prove it. We have imperfections. Weakness in glazes and materials, perhaps there from the beginning, that make us vulnerable. I can’t speak for the mug, but my journey has delivered some significant hits. I’ve taken them, some more gracefully than others, and moved on.

A level of comfort and acceptance connected the mug and me. I had no desire to return to the kitchen and find a newer, unblemished version. It was content to sit on my desk for the day, holding refills and steeping my tea.

Relieved of the desire for perfection, we were two wounded travelers with no need to hide cracks or gray hairs. We were simply taking the day as it came, just as we were.

© 2017 Mary van Balen

King Bhumibol Adulyadej 1927 – 2016

King Bhumibol Adulyadej 1927 – 2016

Close up photo of a the King of Thailand's crest on a yellow "king shirt."I wore my yellow “king shirt” on Friday. No one noticed, but I wore it to remember and honor the beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand who died the day before at the age of 88, after 70 years on the throne. Thailand has lost their king. The world has lost a good man.

I didn’t know anything about the King when I visited Thailand, but one of the first things I noticed was his picture, often huge, displayed everywhere: on highways, in the airport, on the sides of large stores, churches, businesses, and schools as well as in little shops and market places. Sometimes a large picture of his wife, Queen Sirikit, was beside his. It was obvious, the people loved their king.

I learned about wearing yellow shirts in his honor. The King was born on Monday, December 5, 1927, and for the Thai, Monday’s color is yellow. In 2006, to celebrate the King’s 60 years on the throne, and to show respect and love for the King, the people started to wear yellow shirts every Monday. I found one in a large market and bought what I’ve always called my “king shirt.”

Coming from a country founded by revolting against a king, I wasn’t sure why this man was held in such reverence. (Once, while on my way to the airport, I engaged the car’s driver in conversation about the people’s devotion. “It seems genuine,” I said. He looked me in the eyes and replied, “Many people in this country would die for the King.” I didn’t doubt it.)

I did some research and discovered much to like about this monarch. Not in the direct line of succession, he hadn’t anticipated ascending the throne. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts while his father was studying medicine at Harvard. He was educated mainly in Switzerland and studied engineering and the sciences, but a series of unexpected events made him king at the age of 18.

King Bhumibol speaking with people on a rural visit

Photo: BBC

When he and his wife became king and queen, he stated that they would reign “…with righteousness for the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people.” They did, visiting small, poor villages across the country. The king carried his camera, maps, and a notebook, listening and learning what was needed.

Photo of Thai women weaving baskets at the Bamboo Basketry Handicraft Centre, Chonburi Thaniland

Photo: Mary van Balen

Queen Sirikt began programs to teach women traditional Thai handicrafts including basket weaving and fabric arts, enabling them to augment their families’ income.

King of Thailand playing clarinetKing Bhumibol was a man of many talents (a jazz musician who jammed with Benny Goodman among others, composer, designer, builder, and racer of sailboats, painter, author, and engineer) and holds patents for inventions including a water aerator and rainmaking technology. He encouraged farmers to replace crops of drug-producing poppies with more beneficial crops and oversaw thousands of rural development initiatives including small dams and irrigation projects that improved the lives of ordinary people.

king-walking-in-the-countrysideKing Bhumibol received the first UNDP Human Development Lifetime Achievement Aw ard presented by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his “…extraordinary contribution to human development” through continuous efforts to help Thailand’s poor and vulnerable people. (Other awards included the Philae Medal from UNESCO, a World Health Organization plaque for leadership and example in the area of public health, and the first Dr. Norman E Borlaug Medallion from the World Food Prize Foundation for his efforts to alleviate starvation and poverty.)

It seems he was well-named—Bhumibol translates “Strength of the Land.”

On Friday, I kept hoping someone would ask about my shirt, certainly not my color or style. I wanted to say why I felt sorrow and loss at the death of a king halfway around the world. I wanted to tell his story. The story of this leader who put the well-being of the people first stands in stark contrast to the story of this year’s presidential election campaign in this country, where the poor are barely mentioned and attention veers to misogyny, scandal, fear, and hatred.

He wasn’t perfect. To the annoyance of some around him who worked to keep the image of the king almost god-like, he said the same in an address on his 78th birthday, partly in response to increasing arrests for violation of Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws:

“Actually, the belief that ‘the King can do no wrong’ is a big insult to the King. Why could he do no wrong? By saying so, you mean the King is not a human being. The King can do wrong. If, by criticising the King means violating him, then I don’t mind the violation.”

If I’ve piqued your interest, search the internet and learn more about him. Here are some places to start:

Glimpses behind the exalted persona of Thailand’s king by David Gray, who has reported on Thailand for the AP for over 40 years.

From the Royal Thai Embassy, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thailand Bids Farewell to Beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej by Charlie Campbell for Time.

And, if you’d to hear him play a little clarinet with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, check out this YouTube video.

In Remembrance and Solidarity

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

This evening I joined a gathering of people at Trinity Episcopal Church for a prayer vigil of remembrance and solidarity following the violence in Orlando. People of various denominations, faiths, and communities celebrated in a simple service that included silence and music—not too many words. Being together in the Holy Presence of Love, however one names it, was enough.

I felt a profound sense of peace sitting in that welcoming church. Clergy and community leaders spoke and shared their thoughts and voiced prayer for all: an Episcopal priest, Methodist minister, Jewish rabbi, Islamic leader, a member of the LGBT community, and a representative of the Ohio Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Perhaps the most moving moments were those spent standing in silence, listening to the bell toll 50 times, once for each life lost.

We held candles during the final musical piece and benediction. “What’s a vigil without candles?” rector Rev. Richard A. Burnett asked.

True. Candles bring light into darkness, a symbol of Love, of prayer, which do the same.

a round tray filled with sand and small, lit tea candles

PHOTO:Mary van Balen

Note:

As we left the church, a table held information from a number of community organizations that invited participation.  Love is the motivator, the power. But, as Stephen Colbert said as he began his show after the attack: “Love is verb. Do something.” It’s not enough to remember. Each in our individual way must make Love live. One suggestion? In November,  vote, and vote to elect those who will not build on hate and division, but who will work for the common good and protect the civil rights of all.