The monks processed slowly; no one hurried. Reaching the altar, two by two, they bowed low in simultaneous tandem, took a slow, gentle, quarter turn, then another, a choreographed liturgy until they stood still, shoulder to shoulder, before the wooden bookstands. The practice pleased her, the music and the monks reminding her of the stately formations of the royal horses.
Hundreds of beeswax tapers rising from waist-high, square, metal sandboxes lit the elongated silence. As one, the monks opened their books. The turning pages wafted the heavily beeswax scented air past her nostrils into the cavities of face and eye orbits, soothing her shoulders to drop, her jaw to unclench, her mind to still.
Father Vasely walked to the center carrying before him a deeply-hued and gilt icon. He intoned. The monks waited. She waited. Suddenly, the sanctuary filled with singing that was far bigger. What was this? Harmony! Great, rolling, unfurling sound enveloped everything. The sound vibrated the whorls of her ears, her chest bones, even shook a portion of her lower spine. The walls received the ancient psalms’ calls and responses, just as it had from hundreds of bodies for over seventeen-hundred years. The wood; it was singing back! Her mind emptied of everything except for the choral sound of the Russian chants. The harmony overcame her. She wept.