Sunday, February 1, 2015

Celebramos juntos.

You may have noticed that the rate at which I'm writing these essays has slowed some. That's primarily because when you spend almost all your waking hours either doing homework for class, sitting in class with a private language tutor, or studying more Spanish on Rosetta Stone... well, there's really not a whole lot to talk about.

Except, of course, when there is.

On Friday, I ended class feeling remarkably discouraged. We were working with verbs that require an indirect object, and at the same time, conjugating them in the past tense. "She gave it to me." "Ella me lo dio."

It basically requires several steps all at once: conjugate the verb properly (in the past tense), use the proper word for "it" (masculine or feminine), and discern the proper pronoun. And with the words all being so short, you can't cheat and think about what comes next while saying the current word.

And I kept getting it wrong.

I'd use the wrong pronoun, or mistakenly use a masculine object when it required the feminine, or I'd screw up the tense of the verb entirely.

I felt like I was never going to get it.

I was describing it to the TEC missioner who lives across the hall from me, "Es como que hay una pared y no puedo superarlo."

It is like there is a wall, and I cannot get past it.

The move from passable Spanish to fluent Spanish is not an easy move to make.

I was really upset, feeling very discouraged. She told me it was OK. She told me that she actually completely broke down on her fourth day of intensive Spanish, crying and telling the teacher she just couldn't do it. But she kept trying, and eventually it came to her.

Perhaps the best advice came from my friend, the cathedral Sexton, Victor, who said, "You need to stop trying to think of it in English. Just learn the Spanish."

I don't know if that makes sense to you, but it makes complete sense to me.

This morning, after my fruit, yogurt, and coffee, I went down the cathedral and vested for the English language Eucharist. I celebrated in English and preached in English. I felt very much at home, very reminded that as much as I'm struggling with some of the more difficult concepts (for me) in Spanish, there are some things I know how to do!

Then, I tried to prepare myself emotionally and spiritually for what would follow: my first time celebrating Eucharist in Spanish.

I finished my coffee in the sacristy with the other clergy and ministers and told the deacon, Alejandra, that I was going to go spend some time practicing with the missal. I went into the sanctuary, set the missal up on the altar, and started working my way through the service.
Bendito sea Dios: Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo... 
Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...  
Dios omnipotente, para quien todos los corazones están manifiestos, todos los deseos son conocidos y ningún secreto se halla encubierto... 
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all secrets known, and from whom no secrets are hid...
Before I knew it, Alejandra was standing at my right elbow, "Mmmhmm, bien."

This is, of course, the traditional place of the deacon during the Great Thanksgiving, at the right of the priest, assisting as needed in the liturgy.

And, just like her order called her to, she came up alongside me, and helped me work through the Spanish, correcting a pronunciation here and there, but most importantly telling me I was actually doing it well.

She was quickly joined by a lay person, Luis. Luis is from Cuba and was originally in seminary as a Roman Catholic, but left the church and here, in the Dominican, discovered the Episcopal Church. Well, first he discovered it through books, he told me (something I can relate to!), but then he discovered it in person here at the Cathedral.

Now both of them were at my side, a deacon and a lay person, both committed to God—and to helping me not stumble through these holy words.
En verdad es digno, justo y saludable, darte gracias, en todo tiempo y lugar, Padre omnipotente, Creador de cielo y tierra... 
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every- where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth...
When I stumbled over a word, they waited and gave me a chance to try it again. When I asked how to say something properly, they said it a few times for me, getting me comfortable with the word or phrase.

After going through it all, before I knew it, I was vested and at the back of the church. Dean Ashton nodded to me, and I began the liturgy as is customary here at the Cathedral, with a preparatory prayer said from the back.
Oh Dios omnipotente, que derramas sobre todos los que lo desean, el espíritu de gracia y súplica: Líbranos, cuando nos acercamos a ti, de tibieza de corazón y divagaciones de la mente, para que, con firmes pensamientos y calurosos afectos, te adoremos en espíritu y en verdad; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén. 
O Almighty God, who pours out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to you, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The organ began, and the procession, started. I fell into my place after the dean and from there... well, it just flowed.

Good liturgy is like a river, I think. One merely needs to step into the current and let it carry you. I was reminded, over and over again, I know this. I know how this works. When a word seemed about to get stuck in my mouth, I paused, took a breath, opened my mouth wider, and worked through it.

I'm sure there were a few mistakes—absolutely confident—but the people were kind. They were right there with me. Even if I stumbled in my line, they responded confidently with theirs—reminding me that we, the corporate body of Christ, are the celebrants of this feast. I am merely the presider—an honored position, no doubt, but not the place where the totality of God's work in the liturgy resides (thankfully).

At the announcements, Soila welcomed me once more, telling the people how this was my first time celebrating the Eucharist in Spanish (or something like that—Soila can talk very fast). The clapped, looking at me with such happy kind faces. I bowed, so grateful for the opportunity.

Es digno, justo y saludable, darte gracias, en todo tiempo y lugar, Padre omnipotente...

It is right, good, and a joyful think, at all times and in all places, to give thanks to you, Father Almighty...

I still feel like I have a wall in front of me, one that I must surmount. I still have to battle my way through these more difficult tenses and irregular verbs. Fluency seems, at times, like a far-off distant land that I've heard of... but can only imagine.

However, today I was reminded that as I run at that wall, I will not need to try to jump over it on my own.

The people of God are there, reaching out their hands, giving me a boost. When I fall, they encourage me to try again. When I succeed, their embraces as as full of God's grace as the hugs you wind up getting during the Peace in a Dominican Eucharist.

Celebramos juntos. Siempre juntos.

We celebrate together. Always together.

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