Melancholic Beauty

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.-Romans 12:1

There have been weeks where I didn’t post anything. Those weeks are gone forever without any memories. I lament their silent passing. They deserve better. I started writing this blog as a way of keeping in touch with people but it has evolved into something special and sacred. It has become like altars constructed with words. The biblical patriarchs built altars to mark an encounter with God. They used stones and we use words. I usually spend the week waiting and listening for these words. They come to me through different means. On rare occasions, they come through a book or a casual conversation. More often than not, these words are spoken through the children and teens themselves. After all, this is why we are here; to hear and discern the voice of the Spirit in the midst of His lost sheep.

Every week we experience the same cycle. We start our Mondays as if we are stepping into the unknown. We are taught to believe that each week is a linear progression to a goal. However, in reality, every Monday is a reset in our experience. We have two days break in-between. Many things can happen during this time. Our children and teens don’t have a notion of tomorrow and next week. They only have today before them. They can only deal with one day at a time. It is not to be confused with modern pseudo spiritual jargon of living in the moment. They don’t live in the moment but in a state of melancholy. It is not joyful. It is sad. They cannot afford to think beyond today because they cannot imagine a future. The past is something that they use drugs to forget. Today is all that is left for them. When they don’t see us for two days, they have lived two days without our existence. They have grown accustomed to life without our presence. When we reappear on Mondays, they have to redefine their world once again to accommodate us. Mondays are always unpredictable. Sometimes there is a subtle rejection. Other times, there can be excitement to compensate for the lack of attention they experienced in the past two days. We have even experienced Mondays where everything is just perfect. Like I said before, it is like stepping into the unknown.

Tuesday is more predictable but not necessarily good or bad. It is just uneventful. The children and teens are around but they usually don’t want to do anything special. They speak to us for a few minutes and then go away. Sometimes we sit and wait for them and no one comes around. If they do, they might spend just a few minutes with us. They still need time to get accustomed to us.

Wednesdays are hopeful. We find them waiting for us. They greet us with a smile. They announce to everyone, “Stephen and Mary are here.” Some might even leave a message asking us not to leave without saying hello to them. They ask about the letters. They complain that they are not arriving soon enough. They promise to write replies to the ones they received in the next couple of days. Everyone wants to play all the games we have at the same time. They will make plans for excursions with us that most of them will not go on when the time comes. Wednesday is the day when we are fully accepted into their circle. They will even encourage other children to give us their attention. I think that the children think that they are ministering to us and, in a lot of ways, they are right.

Thursdays and Fridays are when the flowers bloom. Things become crystal clear for everyone. They understand our presence here. They want us to stay longer. They are game to do anything as long as we are doing it with them. It is on one of these days last week when Felipe asked us if we talk about them with other people. We thought that it was a strange question but then it made sense. He wanted to know if they are part of our lives apart from our time in the streets. His question inspired my reflection today. As I was writing this, I realized that they are an essential part of our weekly liturgy. The purpose of liturgy is to help to us pray and discern the presence of God in our lives. In the Anglican tradition to which I belong, we use the Book of Common Prayer to aid us in saying the right words and thinking the right thoughts about God. Our children and teens are our living Prayer Book. The Spirit uses their words and actions to show us how to think and reflect about God. To Felipe, my answer is a resounding Yes! We constantly talk about you and the rest of the children to our friends and families. You are part of our liturgy.

A Serbian Orthodox priest here told me that liturgy is suffering that brings forth beauty. It made me have a fresh understanding about liturgical practices in the Bible. They seem like a lot of work. I think about the churches that want to make liturgy light and sentimental in order to be more appealing, they usually lack beauty. Beauty hides behind melancholy. It reveals itself in the strangest times and places. In our lives, it can show its face on any day it chooses from Monday to Friday. This is why we take courage and participate in this melancholic liturgy every week because we know beauty is lurking around the corner.


3 thoughts on “Melancholic Beauty

  1. As always, the pictures you paint with words speak both about the preciousness of individual people and the casualness of violence and degradation. To focus care on people, in the midst of the degradation, feels like the Jesus of the New Testament who also lived in a deeply violent and degrading time.

  2. I’m saddened about Luigi and Gabriel. I just returned from a cruise yesterday. We were treated by my son in law and daughter for our 50th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time and didn’t have internet to read your post on the 12th of May. In fact, I was preparing to write another letter to Luigi this week. All I can do is pray for them both. My favorite verse of scripture is Romans 8:28. It’s inGods hands whatever happens to these boys. Praying.

  3. Thank you for giving us a vivid picture of a typical week with the children. It reminds me a little of children who comes from divorced homes and have to bounce back and forth from father to mother. There is a transition period when they first come to a parent . . . anger, maybe. Sadness, maybe. Then they settle in for the weekend (week) with that parent, only to be uprooted at the end and sent back to the first parent, where the whole emotional roller coaster starts all over again. It is good that you recognize these mood swings and the connection with the day of the week. i guess you just have to “roll with it” and meet them wherever they are that day. Once again, thank you for sharing this with us.

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