I can’t remember the last time I stepped foot into “The House” God’s House…the nest of all nests. I have sojourned to a fair share of grand cathedrals and temples as well as the Great Ayia Sofia, but the last attempt at worship in one was a wedding, or was it a christening? In any case, my favorite day of the year to visit such sacred grounds was the Easter Vigil when I was armed with my lambada or ornamented Easter candle. It was during her yearly visit one day out of Holy Week when my godmother presented me with my excessively adorned ribbon candle that I gripped on Holy Saturday just before midnight. A magical experience, especially in the front pews where I could receive the unsleeping flame from the priest’s imposing Paschal Trikirion and admire the shadows in the church while they emerged from darkness and transformed from the half-light to a mesmerizing brilliance as everyone in the house held their blazing candles. There was something about the stillness of this moment, the proclamation of the priest, something about “light that is never overtaken by night, and glorify Christ, Who is risen from the dead.” Or perhaps it was the combination of glaring into the dancing flames while we all chanted the “Christ Is Risen” hymn and the instant heat I felt from hundreds of candles that transfixed me. The challenge of baring the light into my nest without it extinguishing to guarantee good fortune would make my little heart want to burst with excitement with each and every attempt.
Is it the spirit-filled feelings that entice us to the House of God or any house for that matter? One Saturday not too long ago, I was strolling along with a group led by fearless botanical leader,Ruben Flores, and we entered upon such a magical nest. There was no Easter Vigil, not a single candle lit, no frankincense or myrrh wafting in the air, just the warmth of the tiny cathedral built in the shadow of the imposing St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Something about its infinitesimal size and its simple décor that touched our hearts.
Although we came unannounced and unsure if we could enter this house minutes away from the beach, the guardian heard our whispers from the gardens and burst out to greet and welcome us in with an impromptu tour. The ten or so of us scampered on in, engrossed the miniscule one room house and stopped in our tracks in awe. The diminutive cathedral was built in 1933 with rubble from the Long Beach earthquake. The design reflects the religious roots of the church, a combination of Christianity and theosophy–philosophies incorporating a variety of beliefs including elements of Eastern religions.
In the same spirit as the Episcopalians next door, St. Francis The American Catholic Church welcomes all to participate in their services, regardless of their original background, or where they are on their spiritual journey. Founded by Reverend Percy Wise Clarkson, the denomination is an obscure offshoot of but not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
Sometimes powers with excessive zeal rule with an air of infallibility, but sometimes they find a place where there is room for error. Clarkson intuitively knew that this unique and accommodating house he chartered would be a perfect fit with the community of Laguna Beach…comfortable, unimposing, eclectic with a smidgen of traditional routine and a whole lot of impulsive free thinking and living in the moment hipsters. There are certain things that occur and I often wonder if we have lost all our graces, however, there are other times when they’re days like today…a surprise stroll into the church by the sea. What makes the nest of nest welcoming for you?