St. Hedwig’s Church was poised, expectant, still. My family, Ma, Dad, me, Laura, Carol, Michael, and James, filed into the church in a Polish neighborhood of Detroit for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
My father chose a pew near the high altar, and we scooted into the row between the creaky wooden benches, the rock-hard kneelers, and the prayer railings. The echoes of “Dzisiaj w Betlejem” [Today in Bethlehem] rang in the tall arches and soared to the vaulted ceiling of the darkened church. There were clips on the prayer railings for men to anchor in their fedoras so that they wouldn’t be sat on and crushed. My small brothers could never resist flicking the clips, which echoed like firecrackers in the cavern of the church. Their transgression brought stern looks of reproof from Dad and a “stop it, boys,” from Ma.
The priest entered the sanctuary from the sacristy. The choir sang the opening words to the carol, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” I stopped breathing.
The altars, adorned with dozens of poinsettias, flickered with candles and votive lights in red glass holders. Stained glass windows looked down on faux marble columns adorned in gold leaf, that held up the roof. A shell-shaped piece of copper, burnished with verdigris, covered the raised pulpit to the left of the altar. To my young eyes, it looked like the lid of a clam. I knew from experience that when the priest spoke Polish from that pulpit, his voice would echo into the enormous space. His words and the echo would compete for my ears’ attention. Muted whispers, rustles and coughs stirred the hush as worshipers settled in for the liturgy. All four of the Advent candles on the huge hanging wreath near the altar were now aflame. The empty cradle in the oversized creche to the right of the altar had been filled with a figurine of the baby Jesus.
My ten-year-old skin felt too tight to hold the bigness inside. Tears spilled over my face, and I was helpless to stop them. The awe and peace had to go somewhere. I wiped the drops away and glanced around to see if anyone had seen that I cried. I was embarrassed by my inability to hide my feelings.
I felt that same awe this morning as I lit the candles on my Advent wreath. The awe and peace had to go somewhere. And that is why I write.
© Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D., 2022
Photo by Linda Sandel Pettit
#lindasandelpettit #advent #adventreflections #hope #love #beauty #grief #forgiveness #spirituality #thejoyofgiving #Christmaswisdom #holidays of light
Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D. inspires intuitive-creative women healers to use their healing modalities, speaking voices, and written words to unfold and share the wisdom of the Sacred Feminine. Her podcast, The Intuitive Way of Love, debuts December 8th.
Linda offers sanctuaries, intimate small-group programs, to women healers who want to bring spirituality into their work, and to women writers who are ready to share, get feedback, revise, and publish.
Through her Apprentice’s Way individual all-in-one mentorship program, Linda encourages her clients’ spiritual evolution, psychological health, effective writing, messaging, marketing, and content creation.
Visit www.lindasandelpettit.com to learn more about her programs and array of masterclasses and courses.
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