Eavesdropping In Arizona

By Jason Bruner

August 14, 2017

Eavesdropping In Arizona

“When you hear this language, you hear heaven,” the bishop says. 

Smoldering frankincense snakes its way upward as the golden censer sways, riding the waves of chants sung from memory, from the marrow. Through the Aramaic liturgy I keep hearing “qadisha” – holy, as in God alone. Carried down from the altar, which faces the heavenly East, the smoke purifies, first reaching my sinuses, then seeping deeper, into older places. 

A deacon reads from the Apostle Paul: “Present yourselves as living sacrifices…” Here, in Phoenix, Paul is preaching to the choir. 

A vision from Revelation: the prayers of the saints rising -- those who’ve been sacrificed by ISIS. After all, that is why some are here -- they are refugees. But before ISIS there was the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians, “and Assyrians, too,” one survivor’s middle-aged grandson later tells me. "And," he continues, “don’t forget there were the Mongols and” he shakes his head, sighs a smile, “and...” he trails off. I smell their voices weaving with the silver smoke, from the altar up to the golden throne of God. Qadisha. 

I understand nothing and everything.

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