In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal... faith is faithfulness, loyalty to an event, loyalty to our response.
- Abraham Joshua Heschel
Mary made to grasp Jesus upon hearing her name.
But as she reached for him she found she held
only air, her tears mingling with the burial spices
now scattered at his feet.
She promptly rushed to tell of the miracle she had seen
but not touched. The next morning while grinding flour,
she noted the fragrance still lingering in her hair:
myrrh, aloes and fresh dirt.
The Queen of Peace monastery sits in a valley
just north of Squamish under an Easter-egg blue sky.
We hear that her crowning glory is the Chapel—
all brushed cedar and wide topaz windows. To reach it
one must first pass through a garden.
Bristling clouds of rosemary spill onto the path
and I squeeze a thick frond between my fingers,
anticipating the holy encounter to come.
We enter the Chapel just as the tail of a sister’s habit disappears around the corner. Dipping my fingers in cool water,
I mark my forehead with a dewy cross,
perch on a wooden pew and turn my mind studiously
In the teeming silence, the skin underneath my cross tightens as water evaporates. The pew creaks heavily
as I shift my weight, and I can hear my thoughts dart
like minnows—retreating as quick as they come.
I turn my palms upward, straining for the transcendence
which eludes me.
Slowly, I am stilled by the steady echo
of my husband’s boots as he walks Chapel’s perimeter,
by the rhythmic hiccups of the unknown babe inside me—
due to be born tomorrow they said (as God smiled).
The air slowly thickens with the afternoon sun
and my eyes grow heavy. Squinting at the crucifix suspended
above me I succumb to half-sleep, wondering
if this too is prayer.
John tells us nothing more about Mary.
I always wonder if she wound up resenting Thomas—
his right index finger remembering
the feel of the risen Lord, that taut circle of scar tissue
around the wound.
The sun is at its peak as we leave the monastery,
and I unwind the car window and inhale
the last trace of rosemary on my fingers.
Just as we turn onto the highway, I catch a glimpse
in the rear view of a monochromatic swirl:
the Chapel’s elusive sister—now dancing, twirling
through clouds of rosemary and rainbow chard,
the white of her habit winking celestial in the light.
Cover image by Milada Vigerova