WHEN JESUS INVITED me to spend time with Him the morning of my personal retreat, I couldn’t resist. I set out to have fun and explore the retreat grounds with Jesus by my side. Of the many places I visited, The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was the highlight of my day.
Presiding in the center of the campus was the chapel. Standing at the bottom of the steps looking up, I marveled at the magnificent spire perched atop the stately clock tower. Huge concrete pillars supported the triangular overhang, and white double doors, encased in a decorative brick arch, beckoned onlookers to enter.
How could I not? My curiosity was piqued.
Once inside the chapel, I stopped. Transfixed by the white pughs surrounded with aqua and gold ornamentation, I couldn’t move. I stood on the parquet floor that led to the alter and stared.
On either side, stained glass windows lined the sanctuary casting colorful shafts of light on the outside edges of the pughs.
As I walked closer to the front toward the alter, I glanced up at the ceiling. The beauty of it held my attention; so much so, that I laid on my back in the middle of the aisle and took this picture. The light blues, gold, and white colors, along with the circular and oval designs had a calming effect.
After spending a moment on my back gazing above me, I stood and looked ahead. Glossy blue and white marble steps leading up to the alter invited me forward. Walking slowly, I basked in the reverence of the sanctuary surrounding me.
At the front of the alter was a painting of Jesus as a child with Mary and Joseph. Upon looking closer, there was a golden light shining above him with a white dove descending in the shaft of light. A tour guide explained the dual meaning of the picture.The horizontal view of Jesus standing between Mary and Joseph represented his humanness, while the golden light above Jesus and the descending dove represented the Trinity: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
The picture fascinated me. I tried to envision the artist’s thoughts as he painted the it. What marvelous imagination one display in the artist’s depiction of Jesus in his entirity.
Before I left, I walked halfway back and sat in a pugh. I wasn’t quite ready to leave. For those of you who know me, you know I love to sing. My favorite songs are hymns and praise songs. It just didn’t seem right to leave this hallowed sanctuary without singing praise to the Creator of the Universe. The One whom the sanctuary was built to honor and worship.
I pulled a hymnal from the back of the pugh in front of me and wondered if I would recognize any of the songs. I turned to the index at the back and started running my finger down the list of song names. About halfway down, my finger stopped on a song title I recognized, but hadn’t sang in a long time – “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You”.
I flipped through the pages until I reached the song. As I started reading the words of the first verse, my mind drifted back to my childhood. This was a song I sang in church with my dad. My mind immediately filled with memories of organ music, the choir in their olive robes, and the quaint little sanctuary of my dad’s church. And quietly, I began to sing.
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You
By Ludwig von Beethovan
Joyful, joyful, we adore you,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before you,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness;
Fill us with the light of day!
All your works with joy surround you.
Earth and heaven reflect your rays,
Stars and angels sing around you.
Center of unbroken praise;
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain,
Praising you eternally.
The farther into the verse I read, the louder I sang. Each word spoke directly to me giving me an outline for my day – my day set aside to spend withJesus. As I finished worshipping and left the chapel, the splendor of it lingered with me.
As I continued to explore the retreat grounds, a peace settled over me. I knew Jesus was with me. I could sense him by my side.
We spent the day together, and when it concluded, I was relaxed, refreshed, and renewed. I committed to spend more days together just hanging out after I returned home.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Pslam 16:11, ESV)
Prayer: Dear Father, Thank you for this day I spent with Jesus. My life seems so busy. One day melds into the next. Soon several have passed, and I’ve failed to take a moment to spend time enjoying Your creation and the beauty that surrounds me. Nudge me to make time more often. In Jesus’ precious name I pray, Amen.
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Pictures were taken at the University of St. Mary's of the Lake in Mundelein, IL.