Courage Is Fear Having Said Its Prayers
It is September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of 9/11, and I am walking into Washington National Cathedral for an interfaith service of remembrance and healing. Over three thousand people have journeyed to the Cathedral on this sun-drenched morning to commemorate those who were lost on 9/11, those who survived, and to bring solace to those who struggle to move forward in the face of such collective devastation.
I have been invited here because poetic excerpts from my book, Gateways of the Divine, will be included as part of today’s offering, interspersed into a weaving of live music and song, along with recorded voices of some of the survivors of 9/11, as well as the rescue workers from Ground Zero. Although I published Gateways of the Divine as an elaborate 7-lb. limited edition illuminated manuscript just 11 days after 9/11, I never could have foreseen the mysterious and synchronistic ways that the Gateways would become connected to the events of that fateful day, and less than a year later, be used in this inspirational service at Washington National Cathedral. (When I arrived in Washington D.C. a few days earlier, Canon Peter Grandell told me that Gateways of the Divine was “an inspiration” and “a godsend,” not only in helping him to create the ceremony, but in his own spiritual process of grappling with the events of 9/11. The previous year, he had been across the street from the World Trade Center at a theological conference, and witnessed the falling of the Twin Towers. His need to honor and come to terms with the impact of that event was both profoundly personal as well as spiritual, in his role as one of the leaders at the National Cathedral.)
I leave this brilliant morning and cross the threshold of the Cathedral into a vast and hallowed darkness, one made radiant by jeweled light streaming through an arcade of exquisite stained glass windows. I am handed a program for today’s services, which features a photograph of a red, white and blue painted banner from Ground Zero, bearing the simple declaration: COURAGE. Underneath the banner is an anonymous quote: “Courage is Fear Having Said Its Prayers.” As soon as I read this, my heart breaks open and silently I begin to weep. Walking down the central aisle in the nave with tears streaming down my face, I think of the enormous courage it took for me to bring the Gateways to the world, the countless doubts and fears I faced during the 10 years of its creation, the endless prayers for guidance, the life-savings I poured into its publication, all because I was answering a spiritual calling.
You see, I never had an ambition to be a publisher, to be a public person in any way. The fierce and unflinching wisdom of Gateways of the Divine is the fruit of my own healing journey, a shamanic descent into the Underworld that forced me to face the unspeakable darkness of my personal history, and discover that it, too, is a face of the Divine. As I reach my seat at the front of the Cathedral, knowing that the transformative vision that came through me is in now in service to a collective healing, a rend in my heart is repaired forever. In each fiber of my being I know: Every healing changes the fabric of creation.
With a profound sense of gratitude for the journey which has brought me to this moment, I listen reverently to the sermon given by the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu of South Africa:
“Our God is the one who is right here, who was right there as the planes were hitting their targets, as passengers sat knowing that they were going, rushing into a fiery, explosive death. God was there as the buildings crumbled, there in the blinding, choking dust in the rubble, in the depths of collapsed buildings. In the anguish...God was there in the anguish of the movement, in the darkness, in the bewilderment, in the senselessness of it all. God, Emmanuel, is still here. God is with you. For God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, wiping away your tears, pouring balm on your wounded souls. On that day, you wonderful people of this great country awoke to find that you, that you were fragile, you were vulnerable.
…And so, God says to you, “I love you. You are precious in this fragility and this vulnerability. Your being is a gift. I breathe into you and hold you as something, as something precious.”
When Gateways of the Divine was born in the distressed and sober days following 9/11, I sensed that there was a larger purpose to the book coming to the world at this time, a sense of “divine timing.” For a brief while we were united as a country as we grappled with unspeakable horrors, our hearts broken open in compassionate prayer, as we were forced to face our own fragility and the darkness of the Divine as never before.
At the publication event on the equinox of September 22, 2001, when I performed my first “Gateways Ceremony,” I offered a deck of the 44 Gateways cards from the book to the participants, asking them to each select a Gateway, which I would then illuminate by performing memorized passages of poetry from that chapter. When the Gateway “Facing Death” was selected and its image appeared on the projection screen, everyone in the room gasped in astonishment. “Facing Death” depicts the New York City skyline, with Shiva, the Hindu God of Death, and a dying man in mid-air. The astonishing thing is that I created this image in 1992, when I lived in New York City. There is no way to explain this mystery, but I understood in that moment that something much larger had come through me than just a reflection of my personal healing journey. I looked out at the sea of stunned faces and recited a passage quoted in Irina Tweedie’s Daughter of Fire:
When you die of surrender, only then will you live forever.
If you are put to death through surrender,
There is no such thing as death for you,
For you have died already.
As I traveled around the country promoting the Gateways during the first year, I encountered a surprisingly diverse group of people who were immediately drawn to its unwavering wisdom of integrating Light and Shadow. I was amazed at the profound openings and insights people were experiencing around the book. Therapists and healers and interfaith chaplains discovered a unique tool of transformation as they began to use the Gateways with their clients. Even a 16-year-old teenager who could relate to its raw imagery sent me a letter with her impressions of each one of the 44 Gateways cards. “I hope you find the Source, “ she wrote to me at the end. “I think maybe you already have.”
Over the years, it has been the artistic, spiritual, social and political visionaries who have been most enthusiastic in support of Gateways of the Divine, from Emmy Award-winning composer Gary Malkin to social innovator and author Barbara Marx Hubbard, to Congressman Dennis Kucinich, to Madonna! I’ve been incredibly grateful to each and every person who has supported this book and shared it with others. Every Gateways book that goes out to the world gives me the faith and courage to move forward with my path of serving others through the beauty, power and mystery of the creative arts.
Ten years have passed since Gateways of the Divine made its quiet and indelible entrance to the world, and its integrative vision is needed in our world more than ever. I remember when I met the singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman at the rehearsal for the Washington National Cathedral 9/11 event, and she saw the 7 lb. copy of Gateways of the Divine perched on my hip like a baby, she cried out, “What is that?” And a moment later Beth exclaimed, “I have to have one!”
I laughed. “You haven’t even seen it yet,” I replied.
“I know I need it,” Beth said with certainty.
It is time for the evening service at Washington National Cathedral, the end of a long day of prayerful remembrance on the first anniversary of 9/11. Beth Nielsen Chapman is seated at a grand piano before the congregation, and her tender voice rings out into the vastness:
There's a light, there's a light in the darkness
And the black of the night cannot harm us
We can trust not to fear for our comfort is near
There's a light, there's a light in the darkness
It will rain it will rain in the desert
In the cracks of the plain there's a treasure
Like the trust of the seed we will await we believe
It will rain it will rain in the desert
We will fly we will fly we will let go
To this world we will die but our hearts know
We'll see more on that side when the door opens wide
We will fly we will fly we will fly we will fly
We will all go
I find out later that Beth has been through the Shadowlands as well, having lost her husband to cancer seven years before, and just recently having survived a bout with breast cancer herself. Perhaps Beth responded so quickly to Gateways of the Divine because she instinctively knew that I was a sister who had forged her way through the darkness, and discovered the light of an open heart.
For more information:
-Signed and numbered Limited Edition copies of
Gateways of the Divine are now available below cost at www.GatewaysoftheDivine.com
-To learn more about the genesis of Gateways of the Divine, please watch the short video, “The Vision and Healing Artistry of Colette” at http://www.vimeo.com/8024432
Lyrics to “There’s a Light” ©Beth Nielsen Chapman.
To learn about the exquisite musical offerings of
Beth Nielsen Chapman, and to purchase songs: https://www.bethnielsenchapman.com/
-For the complete transcript of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s sermon at Washington National Cathedral on September 11, 2002, go to: