I went to Church this afternoon. For five hours. I went to Church as I folded sheets and brochures; went to church as I read the news notices coming into my phone about the latest political messes around the world. I went to Church with a friend who was 3,738 miles away. As I caught up with emails and some editing, I went to church and prayed and sang and yes, even clapped and thumped the desk once or twice. It was the funeral of Aretha Franklin and it was Something.
It was Something and it did Something. And I am grateful.
I am grateful in a similar way that I was grateful for the Met when I lived in New York City, odd as that might sound. Now and then I would recognize that I was in need of a beauty fix and would take the community museum pass and go steep myself in favorites.
I am grateful in a way similar to what I would feel sometimes at Xavier…when I simply needed to stop and let ritual wash over me. I needed to not think and just steep myself in familiar ritual.
Yesterday, watching Aretha Franklin’s funeral, I recognized that I had been missing the power of oratory. Speech that seeks out the dips and curves and heights of the currents flowing through room and syllable and rides the ‘footless halls of air…’ so that in that ‘high untrespassed sanctity of space’ we might each ‘put out our hands and touch the face of God.’ (lines in quotation marks taken from John Gillespie Magee’s poem High Flight. Nothing to do with Aretha’s funeral—the images just speak to me.)
Oratory is an art that literally and figuratively speaks to my heart and is for me more than flourish, more than emotion…it is a calling forth of the very power of the word and the Word. Treating language to that sort of dimension is to free it into fullness…it is a glimpse within at what it contains….
It is prayer to hear it done well and it is my prayer to have the freedom to practice it when it is called forth by mood, by occasion, by Spirit.
There are times when Oratory is called for.
When God is to be proclaimed, not spoken of.
to joy up, raise up, lift up, those who are
too tired, too worn, to remember
what it feels like to look at Love and
dance; to look at Love and
say Yes, I believe; to look at Love
and rest in awe and be filled
with the faith that sustains.
There are times for Oratory
that celebrates and honors,
that respects, dignifies, and gives glory
in fullness of voice and confidence of heart;
confidence of heart, and mind, and being;
and in passion that sees a mountain and says
I will climb; feels the wind and says, I will stand.
There are times for Oratory:
to offer it; to receive it;
to let it cleanse and let it heal.
Kimberly M. King, RSCJ