O magnum mysterium,
Et admirabile sacramentum
Ut animalia viderunt Dominum natum
Jacentem in praesepio.
I stand in the kitchen of the Vines, surrounded by rice, avocado, corn, salsa, chicken, peppers, onions, lime. It’s my night to cook dinner, and I decided that we’re having a taste of home: American-style Mexican food. Though no one here believes that I’m an introvert, I’ve biked home this afternoon to get away from it all and spend some time alone. No one is in the house, and I have the spacious kitchen all to myself for a few hours. I am in the process of smashing avocados to make guacamole, and I’m listening to the music of Morten Lauridsen.
It’s not Christmas, but O Magnum Mysterium begins to play, and I stop the cutting and the smashing. It seems that there should be no other sound; there should be no activity, while O Magnum is on. I’ve probably listened to this song hundreds of times, but this time is different. I cast a glance behind me – the light is slanting through the window and illuminating the room, and I squint as I look out onto the garden. The window is slightly open, and the crisp autumn air catches my hair as I gaze at the bright green of the sunlit grass, the darker green of the leaves of trees just at the cusp of change, the never-changing dark brown of their trunks.
That animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in a manger. O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament.
My gaze is soft, and I feel humbled as I receive the colors and the light, the feeling of change and lift. The rustling of the leaves comes into focus alongside the Lauridsen singers.
Blessed is the virgin, whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. Alleluia.
After a long while, I return to myself, to the kitchen, to the food I’m preparing. I remember the rice on the stove, the half-cut onion, my hands covered in avocado. The song draws to a close with a hum of the lightest pianissimo, a loud Spotify ad comes on, and I am thrown out of my reverie. I look at my watch and think to myself that if I don’t hurry, I won’t be able to make it to the music faculty library in time to get the books I need on Ralph Vaughn Williams. I have to finish the rice, finish the guacamole, cut the peppers, make the corn salsa, locate the books I need, bike down the hill, get them, rush to the English seminar, and bike back up the hill to finish making dinner. And then I need to clean the kitchen and work on my paper.
Dirait-on comes on. The song of my senior year of high school, the song of the rose, the song of oneness and love and nature, the painfully lovely song that carries with it so much import. As I finish cooking, I realize that in a way, cooking, like writing, feels similar to praying. I take the ingredients in my hands, and I shape and mold them into a gift. I take my mind and my heart, and I present it to God.
A few minutes later, I bike down Headington Hill on the way to the faculty library, and I’m going so fast that my eyes tear up and everything blurs even more. A few leaves flutter down, and I zip by, through these beautiful streets, by the tallest spire of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin.
O magnum mysterium.