Alyssa Alexander

A Quiet Moment of Grace

We’re all still mostly on COVID-19 lockdown, and for those of us with itchy feet, that’s a tough thing. I’d planned to go to Italy this fall, or perhaps take my 12 y/o Biscuit to London or Dublin in the spring, but COVID has ruined my plans.

To compensate, I pulled out the journal I kept during my solo trip to London and Paris in 2016 and found an entry from my first day in London.

It made my heart ache.

This post is not about religion, the joy or the trials, the history or debates, or that any religion is right or wrong. I am not religious per se, though I would say I am spiritual. And because I understand the connectivity of religion, spirituality, history and faith, I visit churches wherever I travel to. Not to participate in a service or ritual, but to find a place to be.

Sometimes I can be in on a heath in England, or standing among the ruins of a 15th century abbey in Ireland, or a working church in the heart of Paris while the vacuum cleaner is running, or simply in my own backyard.

This post is about simply being and how my heart felt when I was sitting in the Brompton Oratory.

P.S. Pictures were not allowed indoors, so all I have is a snapshot of the exterior. Also, this post is exactly how I wrote it in my journal, with the exception of a few corrected spelling errors.

4/14/16 4:30ish pm, London

I’m sitting in almost utter silence. I’m in the Oratory, in a ray of light. The only ray of light.

To my right is the most stunning depiction of Mary and Christ. Gilt and gold, marble and huge and carved.

I have never see anything like it. I cannot take a photo–but even if I could, I’m not sure I would.

It’s somehow too beautiful to be photographed. It shall have to stay in my memory.

There are others wandering here, all quiet. It is like every one of us is holding our breath.

A man just bought a candle, using another to light it. He is praying. As so many thousands have done before. And so many have died for that right. So many have died because of it.

Yet, as I sit here in my sunlight, watching it fade away, I cannot help but think about all the souls that have walked these floors, breathed this air, and felt this silence.

There is something peaceful and precious in the walls, whatever religion it is.

Tradition. Love. Respect. History.

Whatever else might be part of religion, there are also those four things.

The ceilings here simply soar, domed, high, painted and mosaiced. There is a loveliness that defies the imagination. And a beauty as well, that shocks the soul and draws it in.

The corners with saints to pray to, for confessions, for quiet reflection–each is as interesting and detailed as the last.

The memorial to the fallen soldiers 1914-1919 featured a Pieta-type statue that held so much sadness–and yet grace and peace. I hope those soldiers found that grace and peace.

I’ve stepped outside now into noise and bustle again. Cars, people, buses–so much life.

Yet I find myself wanting to step back inside and think about those I’ve lost.

May all of you find peace and grace.

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