Sunday, March 17, 2019

2019.03.17 Mixed Mood Management?

To balance a mixed mood is arduous, precarious—and yet.

I should be writing about St. Patrick, noted for pubs and miracles and shamrocks, but I’m not in the mood. Oh, I have nothing against this British-born patron saint of Ireland or green clovers, nor his day filled with parades, green cupcakes, and whiskey-induced joy. What does irk me is the one-sidedness of the way some of us Christians, or Americans, or Bostonians overplay the upside at the cost of ignoring the downside. Call it cheating the wholeness of the Holy.

I get it. Joy is more fun than pain. Still: both are real and both are godly and both belong together.

As to St. Patrick, it helps me to remember his beginnings as a lad of sixteen, captured by Irish pirates and taken into slavery to care for animals. That’s enough to know in order to balance things out, stabilize the mood swing option, and acknowledge that sainthood can arise within post-traumatic-stress syndrome.

Much of the time we worship in communities in which the mood is mixed, not unipolar. This is why we have carefully detailed liturgical seasons to observe—different colors, prayers, and moods—to make sure we honor all the vicissitudes of human life. Call it the wholeness of the Holy.

In my parish of the moment we are in mixed-mood mode. The rector of nearly ten years is leaving within two weeks. We feel naturally sad. On the other hand, we feel naturally joyous because he is leaving for celebratory reasons: his spouse has been elected to be bishop in another diocese. We want to rejoice, and we want to make room for sorrow too. We are in mixed mood.

The poor rector himself has been making strenuous efforts to pump the community full of trust, faith, hope, and love.—parting gifts. He is not dishonest in doing this, and the mood is mostly up. Nor is it wrong or even phony to keep the mood bolstered. How hard it is to have somber feelings and be upbeat at once. I was administering the sacrament of healing prayers today. At least twice the number of people came to request healing prayers. They focused on personal needs of course, all true and sincere, yet I wondered if the small numeric surge had to do as much with the underside of the general mood-mix as it did with their particulars. I don’t know. I only know that I felt spiritually enlarged, suddenly grateful, for this space to let down.

I was equally grateful for today’s anthem, for the beautiful poetry of John Donne (1873-1631), English poet and cleric.
-and for the authentic way the small choir sang it. It leavened the mood with wisdom.


Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin by which I won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
Swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.