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Searching – A Serial Novelle Chapter 33: In Their Unknowing Grew A Great Joy

The procession was led by a group of children, dressed in bright red vests and carrying the most beautiful stars on thin poles. Each star had a face, and each face had a story.  Ahead, the bright star on the church tower grew bigger and bigger.  A guitar and the words of a Christmas bolero floated from the tower. All around them, Angel and Luz could see the faces of people illuminated by their candles, and as they prepared to cross 28th Street, the police stopped the traffic and waved the freezing pilgrims through.

All around the church steps, brown lunch bags with candles growing. The crowd passed underneath a large banner that said only “¡Bienvenidos!” and entered into the old church.  You could almost hear each body release the cold as they stepped into the warm.

Luz and Angel intended to sit in the back.  Angel had been to church only once in the past few years, for the funeral of his friend Andres, who was shot down in plain daylight on Lake Street.  Luz had gone to Mass faithfully with her Tio, but always felt that the people were staring at her, staring into her wounded, broken soul.  She would pray to God, but more often than not, she felt that God’s eyes were leading the crowd that glared.  But tonight was different.

People were taking off hats and scarves, and calling to their children to come sit with them.  Angel and Luz looked around and then at each other. They did not know what to do, and in their unknowing grew a great joy. They were called forward by a man and a woman, dressed head to toe in black, the man gray on top but both with youthful eyes.  With their hands, they motioned Luz and Angel to sit down, but they only place they could find was on the floor, where twenty or more children were sitting.

Joseph and Mary—now fully pregnant—were led down the aisle by a donkey and four little angels in gold robes and cardboard wings.  They sat on a simple stool on a platform raised above the communion rail.  As the crowd stilled, the angel choir began a beautiful lullaby—A la Nanita Nana—and one by one, beasts of the field and of the air gathered around the holy family: sheep and mice, birds and a buffalo, deer and llamas, a mother wolf with her pup.  The animals stood up and blocked the view of Maria and José waiting, and the choir softened to a hum.  Angel and Luz looked at the sight with eyes wide as oceans, and as the animals parted—like a sea, Angel thought—the family had been transformed by the presence of an infant, wrapped in the swaddling arms of his mother, looking with joy at the lights and the assembled flock.

Then the couple in black spoke words of peace to all nations followed by drumming and dancing and laughter.  The crowd was led to a feast of hot soup and warm bread, cake and the breathing of 300 souls.  After the piñata—more like a tornado—Luz thought, the crowd began to disperse. Angel and Luz turned to each other and with their eyes each of them asked what shall we do?

Angel spoke.  “Let’s go back in the church. I want to see something.”

Luz laughed. “But the church is all these people going out to their homes!”

“I know,” Angel said, “but I think I saw something of our home in there, in this place…what do you call it?”

“The sanctuary,” Luz replied.

“The sanctuary,” Angel repeated, and felt his spirit bow toward the word.  That is what I’ve been looking for, he thought, a sanctuary, a refuge for me.

And at the same time, Luz thought that is what I have been looking for, a sanctuary, a refuge for me, for my people.

They walked to the area where the star children had left their stars.  The children were gone, but the stars glowed with a light that was nearly human. Luz and Angel could see the faces of each star reflecting the spirit of people they knew, people who had brought them here: Luz’ uncle and Angel’s dad, Mr. Bussey and the flower lady, Mother Light from now, and Mother Light from then, even the tiny man—if indeed he was a man—who played the violin.  And behind the light of the faces, other faces were vanishing: The Migra and the man with the scar, the truck hijacker and the thugs in the alley, Herods of every time and place evaporating into the stained glass window behind them.  They watched as they left, and they both saw the face of Mateo Kelly. Not as a ghost or the face of evil, not as a murder victim or a curse, but as a chubby, laughing baby, swaddled in his mother’s arms.

“Where should we go now?” Angel asked.

“I don’t think ‘where’ is the word we need to worry about,” Luz replied with a smile.

“Well, what should we do?” he asked.

“Mi amor, I don’t think we have to ‘do’ anything, her smile growing wider.

Angel started to think about what she meant, but then realized that ‘thinking’ was not what was being called for. He put his arm around Luz, and they sat down together before the stars, crying. Crying tears of grief for all they had suffered, and tears of joy for having found each other and in the process found part of their lives that had been hidden. They wiped each other’s tears, and welcomed each other in their arms.  Long before the janitor came to turn out the lights, they were fast asleep, surrounded by dreaming stars.

Next time: The End? Or a New Beginning?

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