I was fourteen, when given my first glimpse of God.
It was Christmas Eve, St. Paul’s College of Manila.
In the balcony of the Chapel of the Crucified Christ, I was sullenly awaiting the start of midnight mass. Earlier, when mother had informed me we would be attending this event, I pled my case.
“Noooo … the cousins are having a party … with a live band.”
“How nice for them,” she responded.
So there we were. I sat stiffly on the wooden pew, legs crossed at the ankles, hands folded, obedient, resentful, plotting revenge.
The lights had been switched off. Broad-bladed tropical fans stilled. Perspiring in the heat, outwardly composed, inwardly entertained by images of wild rebellion, I was startled into consciousness by the faint sound of a-capella singing. Floating on the air like the scent of tropical flowers, was an ethereal, Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
Below me, white veiled nuns raising high, sweet, unearthly voices, filed slowly into the darkened Chapel. Each carried a glowing candle which she lovingly placed on the completely bare altar.
I leaned forward, mesmerized, drawn into the increasing light.
Slowly I became the softening wax, interior spilling over exterior. My eyes followed the smoke; diaphanous, ethereal, entwined with heaven song, it spiraled upwards, upwards…. Shivering and curling, it drifted towards the vaulted ceiling, gossamer arms reaching, reaching, for the heavens. There, up high amid the ancient shadows, heated particles of carbon gathered, strengthened, and reformed, revealing the wing-ed shapes of seraphim.
Neck arched, lips slightly parted, I closed my eyes as soul pulled out of self and passed into, a land of strange and alien Joy.