Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Commemoration of the One Year Anniversary of the 'Liturgy of the Light'

It's hard to believe that this time last year, the Class of 2010 at Patrician Brothers' College Fairfield were on their Year 11 Retreat, packed into a community hall at the Elanora Conference Centre at Elanora Heights, in what was a most reverent occasion - the Liturgy of the Light. It baffles me to think that it has been a year already. In a sense, it's a depressing, though much-needed reminder, of how time is continually fleeting. I still regard that liturgy as the moment in my life that has come closest to being perfect. I hope that everyone from the Year 12 cohort took something from it. Personally, I didn't participate in the 'forgiveness' part of the ceremony. Instead, I used the occasion to give thanks to people who had touched me in some way, whether it be over the course of the retreat, or throughout my schooling in general. For many involved, the occasion would have provided much spiritual fulfilment. Those who know me enough would know that I am not a religious person, and that my faith is quite weak. Did the liturgy improve my faith? Not one bit. What it did do though, is reassure me that life is a beautiful thing. Living...breathing...feeling...experiencing. It's just great to be alive, and to have been part of such a profound moment. If that moment was to be recreated, it just wouldn't be the same. There was a certain atmosphere of togetherness and mutuality in the room that night, one that, in my opinion, should not be imitated in the future. has been a year, and I realise that not everyone's promises from that night have managed to stay intact. That's life...shit happens. What's important is that you remember the way you felt on that night, and pat yourself on the back for having the courage to make such bold promises in the first place.

What you just read are the only spontaneous thoughts that you will come across in tonight's blog. I'm composing this blog to give anyone who was involved in the liturgy a chance to reflect on the occasion, seeing as it has been a year tonight. Below, I will post an original poem of mine, Absolution?, which I wrote for an English assignment earlier this year. For this assignment, I had to compose a creative piece based on a memory of mine that bears great significance. I chose to document the Liturgy of the Light. Personally, I think it could have been improved, but the teacher who marked it spoke highly of it. I will also post two songs that were playing in the background during the liturgy: The Living Years by Mike + The Mechanics, and Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own by U2. I instantly downloaded those songs when I arrived home from the retreat. This is just a suggestion, but if you are part of the Class of 2010 at Pats, and have your Year 12 Graduation candle, perhaps you could light it while you read the poem and listen to the songs.


We came in from the cold,
not knowing we would leave
with tears in our eyes.

Our faces were made visible
by the flicker of candlelight,
which enticed our eyes to the centre of the room.

                                                       A tragic revelation
removed all triviality from the occasion,
and it was then I felt the tears building up inside of me.
But I used my strength to hold them back,
because I sensed that I would need them later on.

We were invited –
not forced, to make amends for past wrongs.
Ashes would mark the start of a new beginning.
Bono’s voice permeated across the room,
singing ‘Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own’,
as boys zigzagged through chairs, looking for old foes.
I had no scores to settle with anyone in the room,
so I sat, and I waited to be approached.
Nobody came to me.

Was my slate really clean?
                Or had I done something unforgivable?
I suspected the former, and felt a gratifying reassurance.

But the night was not over,
and it was time to recognise the good people:
the ones who made us smile,
who supported us when we felt like crumbling,
who made our stay at this retreat that bit more comfortable.
So I rose from my seat,
and panned the room for the ones who illuminated my pallid life.

My first true friend – he received an ash.
My quasi-cynical friend – he received one too –
I even gave one to the boy who asked “How are you?”
while I was making tea earlier in the evening.
In total, I must have marked over a dozen students and teachers,
every single instance brimming with a deep-rooted appreciation.

Two paper crosses would hold our special intentions,
so I waited in line behind my fellow friends.
A momentary stumble did not
distract my mind from the solemnity of the occasion,
and it was now my turn to put pen to paper.
I wrote both of their names:
Barbara and Peter,
and imagined their radiant smiles beaming down on me –
creating cracks in the roof,
in an effort to reach me.

When I was seated,
I looked across the room,
and saw my reflection in the tearful eyes
of innocence and youth.
Tears streamed down my face –
a deluge of sympathy, regret,
                                       and optimism.
Blackened foreheads told the stories
of tortured souls
who had been pushed around,
or berated for their independent beliefs.
I looked at the ones whose
foreheads presented more ash than bare skin,
and I was moved,
moved because I had understood them all along.

As people left the room in stunned silence,
those who remained
drew closer to the sacred space –
for warmth, inclusion,
or serenity,
for the space was a picturesque island in itself –
our intentions like messages in bottles:
released, yet still secure.

Pairs of boys,
strewn around the space,
comforted each other
with a gentle embrace.
I marked one pair with ashes –
their faces were portraits of grief.
They could have stayed by that light forever,
but time was a thief.

Prayer signalled the end of
this memorable night.
I embarrassed myself –
not knowing the correct order
of prayers in the Rosary.
I was a victim of my upbringing.
But this embarrassment lived only in me,
for those surrounding me
carried on as if nothing went wrong.
They knew better than to scoff or jeer –
this night had changed them.

When I felt content
with what I had seen in the room,
and with what I had learnt about my peers,
I stood up
and bowed in front of the sacred space,
keeping the peace intact.

I walked out of the room,
into the bitter arms of the October night.

All of my friends had by now
retreated to their cabins,
eager to rest their weary heads.
One of them came to check on me,
like the paranoid ewe,
in search of her lost lamb.
His mission was cut short,
as our paths intertwined;
I felt guilt digging his ugly claws
into my back,
because my friend –
he shouldn’t have been that kind.
I had put him through too much
in recent times.

He guided me back to the cabin we shared –
not a word was spoken.
I walked through the door
to a warm welcome.
                             A hug,
then my affirmation that I am
“a spiritual person, not a religious person,”
followed by sleep.

That night –
it has nestled itself
into a tranquil pocket
of my mind.
It often wakes up
making me smile,
and sigh –
is a verisimilitude
in itself.  

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