Rod Dreher has been publishing letters from readers of his blog in a series called “Pandemic Diaries.” It’s an effort to document this historic moment, and the individual threads that make up the entire fabric of our collective experience. I’ve found many of them interesting and moving, and so yesterday I sent him a letter of my own. I recount the many blessings I currently have, and talk a bit about the uncertainties that lie ahead for me regarding my own academic future. At the end, I share about my attempt to find beauty in all of this through my recollections of the Compline service I used to attend every Sunday before the outbreak:
“Prior to the outbreak, the office of Compline was sung at Christ Church downtown every Sunday evening during the school year. Rochester is home to the Eastman School of Music, one of the best in the country, and brilliant students and professors from Eastman, other local music programs and Christ Church sing and pray the liturgy. The church is a beautiful and old building, and when you enter the sanctuary there is complete silence, anticipating the singers who eventually file out into the room – the only sound is the organ music that starts ten minutes prior to the service. All the lights are off, replaced instead with candles throughout the room. It’s perhaps the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard in my life, every week without fail, and serves as the central point for my week.
It’s made my heart ache not to be able to go and experience this beauty these past few weeks, especially because, if I do leave for Europe when I had previously planned, I won’t have the opportunity of attending again for perhaps a few years. It’s a dear piece of Rochester that I cherish, and will miss greatly. I was hoping to be able to say goodbye to it in a more gradual way.
A few Sunday nights ago, I suddenly recalled that many of the songs for the service have been recorded and uploaded to a Youtube channel. When everyone else had gone to sleep, I turned off most of the lights in the house, put in my headphones, and attended the service once more. I could close my eyes and feel the darkness of the sanctuary envelop me, smell the old church, see the candlelit singers in my mind once more and hear their piercingly beautiful voices. I’ve been attending the service for years, and it moved me how much of it has settled into my heart and my memory, ready for me when I come searching for it in my time of need.
The last song I listened to was a moving arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer. Every week since, and for the coming months, I will continue to pray with them that God would deliver us from all evil.
May He bless you and all those who are suffering in these difficult times.”
You can read the entire thing, along with the other entries from today, here.