Sitting in Orsanmichele at noon

I walked into the empty chiesa (church), Orsanmichele, and headed for the tabernacolo (tabernacle) that houses the illuminated "Madonna and Child" painting. There were four candle trees that were placed in front of the tabernacolo. Unlit candles were splayed out on the bottom rack while a few lit candles were flickering at the top. I walked to the candle tree with only one candle on top and put my money in the slot labelled Offerta (Offer/Donation). I picked out two white candles in red tin containers and lit one with the candle at the top and the other with my first candle.

When I lit my candles, I lit one for all the love I'm fortunate to receive and one for all the love I'm able to give. I realized today that while I was lighting my second candle, the flame was its largest when the two were together. Maybe giving and receiving love are greater together than each one is separately.

I sat on the wooden bench and stared at the tabernacolo. I studied it for the thousandth time and still I was able to notice new features today. I saw how the child in the painting was gently touching his mother's cheek. His somewhat insignificant gesture tugged at my heartstrings and showed me all the affection, love, and admiration he had for his mother.

At noon the joyous bells rang. I could feel them penetrate my soul while I sat in the cold and dark chiesa. When they finished ringing, the ominous bells of the Duomo were just finishing and I heard the last few chimes that signaled the noon hour.

I didn't look back when I heard a few people stagger in one by one. I could hear the hum of the city streets around the four walls of the chiesa. A car passed by while people chatted outside. Their voices carried inside the chiesa and bounced off the walls when someone walked in and the door was still open.

As soon as a small group of people entered and I could hear their voices whispering behind me, I felt the need to leave. My sacred spot to listen to my own heart was no longer all mine. I almost didn't want to exit the chiesa after sitting there for at least fifteen minutes. The silence cradled me while the frescoes, artwork, stained glass windows, and candles kept me company.

When I stood up, the wood bench creaked. I said a soft goodbye to my candles as they twinkled, and wondered how much longer they would burn. I walked toward the swinging door and looked back one last time to make sure they were still burning.

When I got back outside to the grey morning, I felt as if my step was a little lighter. My concerns and worries of the day seemed to have melted away.

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