Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13.44)
Yesterday, my mother, Clara Lolita Roberts Abernathy, came to my mind. Not unusual. I think of her often. Daily. With gratitude for my life. With sorrow for her absence; which, following the trail of her nearly twenty-year pilgrimage into the ever-dimming mist of Alzheimer’s disease, meant that she departed from the near and dear presence of mutual awareness and shared relationship long before her body succumbed to death.
Thinking of her, in an act of reminiscence, I retrieved and reviewed a cache of her sheet music (my mother was a superb pianist and organist), which Pontheolla and I had preserved in our piano bench. Among the manifold treasures, running the gamut of sacred hymns, show tunes, and national songs:
*The Book of American Negro Spirituals (1931), edited by James Weldon Johnson, musical arrangements by J. Rosamond Johnson
*The Family Album of American Songs (1953), selected and adapted by Burl Ives
*If ye love Me, keep My Commandments (1565), Thomas Tallis, composer
*I will not leave you comfortless (1934), Everett Titcomb, composer
*Magic Moments in Music for Piano (1958), William Stickles, arranger
There also was a folder of musical notations, in my mother’s own hand, of her accompaniments for church choral anthems.
And tucked behind the last sheet, like Jesus’ “treasure hidden in a field,” I found a small triptych manuscript: The Southwell Litany for the Personal Life from The Litany of Remembrance of Dr. George Ridding.
Though knowing my mother to have been a most devoutly prayerful Christian, I was intrigued by this seemingly out-of-place piece of literature. With a bit of research, I now know that George Ridding (1828-1904) was a scholar and an educator and the first Bishop of Southwell, England. He was known for his personal integrity, sincerity of faith, and liberality of spirit, particularly manifest in his able and willing engagement of any and all with opposing viewpoints of life and church.
As I read and reflected on Ridding’s Litany of Remembrance, published posthumously in 1905, in the light, indeed, the contentious social and political shadows of these times, one petition leapt from the pages into my mind and heart, soul and spirit.
I share it with the supplication that, like Jesus’ “treasure hidden in a field,” we all “in (our) joy go and sell all that (we have) and buy that field,” which is to say, that we live the words of this prayer:
From all utterances of impatience; from the retort of irritation and the taunt of sarcasm; from all infirmity of temper in provoking or being provoked; from love of unkind gossip, and from all idle words that may do hurt,
Save us and help us, we humbly beseech Thee, O Lord.
© 2020 PRA