Spem in alium nunquam habui praeter in te,
Deus Israel, qui irasceris et propitius eris,
et omnia peccata hominum in tribulatione dimittis.
Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae, respice
I have never put my hope in any other but in You,
O God of Israel, who can show both anger, and
and who absolves all the sins of suffering man
Lord God, creator of heaven and Earth, be mindful
of our lowliness.
I woke up this morning with the thick knot of grief in my chest. My head was heavy, and my eyes lost their brightness. It was 4 in the morning, and I was filled with sudden desire to attend Vespers. But the monastery is 3 hours away from me. Instead, I went to the library and borrowed Venetian Vespers reconstructed as it might have been celebrated in St. Mark’s, Venice in 1643.
Vespers is the evening prayer service, my favorite Liturgy of the Hours.
But what this craving really means for me today is that I am dreading the day I face ahead. I will be dragging my low spirit throughout the day and by the night comes, my spirit will leave me entirely, bleeding away from me, like the sunset in the Venetian evening. Already, I am seeking the day’s end, to put an end to my unknown sadness, unreasonable agony, hoping that tomorrow, I will wake up in a better mental state.
I don’t know what it is about this pattern, but it seems, the fate of my mental state is determined in the morning. Upon awakening, I immediately know if I am starting another episode. It’s like waking up with fever or cough if your body developed cold overnight. It’s like my spirit departed my body overnight, and got into some kind of adventure, and then my body suffers because of that unknown journey my spirit has taken. Sometimes my spirit runs high, so high I cannot catch up. Sometimes my spirit run low, so low I cannot function. I have very low success rate in both cases.
Thomas Tallis’s Spem In Alium is not performed often, because it consists of 40 motets, and you would need at least 40 singers who mastered the technique to meet its demand to perfection. Whatever my spirit is trying to achieve, I hope it’s not trying perform Spem in Alium. Alone. That’s a very high ambition, my dear spirit. So why don’t you just get off the stage, and try silence? How golden is that idea?
So, silence, I try. There may not be any churches nearby that can offer Vespers to my desperate heart, but I do have a quiet morning prayer service within 10 minutes’ drive. I go in late, hoping to avoid the bright lights illuminating our sleepy appearances(it starts at 5:30 a.m. Most people just woke up from their sleep). I don’t care if anyone notices my poor outlook. I am just trying to avoid the disturbingly bright light that fills up the big auditorium. The size of the space is already overwhelming to my sensitive taste, and when the bright, unattractive ceiling lights are added, it’s special effects gone so wrong. However, I put up with its awful effect, because the lights completely go off once the short sermon is over, and they play pretty nice worship music which provides a great sound effect.
Today’s short, but impressive sermon was built on Genesis chapter 8. The pastor talked about Noah waiting in the boat patiently until God’s further direction. Still, during the waiting period, he runs tests on his own, using the raven, and then the dove. The dove doesn’t return to the boat at last, yet Noah still waits for the voice of the one he trusts. “Two more months went by, and at last the earth was dry.(Genesis 8:14)”
When the earth was completely dry, God said to Noah, “Leave the boat, all of you-“ And so, God’s plan of repopulating the earth began. Noah and his family spent one year in their boat. I bet he had no idea how long he was to endure in the boat waiting out the flood. Neither did I. It was one year ago that I left Hawaii. I gained another year to my age, and now I am 32 years old, still at the lowest point of my life. I don’t think I have ever envisioned myself where I am today in my teenage years of typical high hopes. I felt so low this morning, driving to the church, having nothing to do with my broken hopes and dreams. They were worldly ones that I now have nothing to do with. I would not trade my lowly state with anything. I am low, but my soul is higher than ever, in the loving bosom of the Holy Father. It turns out, that I was to inherit the kingdom of God. So, what I have while I live temporarily in this broken world has no significance to me. My grief and sadness I feel have nothing to do with my current situation. I have certain sense of sadness and grief for no other reason than the fact that my brain is sending those signals. In other words, I have a brain that controls my body. And I have a will that does not follow my physical senses.
I gather all the leftover scraps of my will, and make a small request of prayer. Give me grace to hold on to Jesus alone. Help me focus on Him alone, on His deeds, and His promises. Sure enough, all the images of His favor on me, His healing on my illness, His promises to be fulfilled clouded my mind. It was certainly more than 40 motets of my memories. There were so many I could not even count. Out of every day of my life here on earth, there was not a single day that God did not act in my favor. In between those great deeds of God, and His deliverance of me, I was simply responding, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. I could have gone on and on like that all day in one sitting. But I can’t stay all day.
I leave the church to take my sister and her youngest daughter to IHOP, International House of Pancakes. I promised to take them out for the birthday breakfast for Eunice, who turns 3 today. IHOP was on my agenda, but my soul was far from the thoughts about pancakes. I was doing my own IHOP composition. ‘When I die, dear God, bless me to boldly say, that I have never put my hope in any other but in You, O God of Israel. I hope I can truly say that on that final day when You call me, or when You come- whichever day comes first. Till then, I hope only in You.’
I have never put my hope in any other but in You,O God of Israel