Sunday night. Pouring rain. The last parking space before the bluff. Socks in sandals. Soaking wet.

A friend had suggested I meet her at St. Mark's Cathedral for the O Antiphon Service.

She wasn't there. I half-expected that. She lives further north and the weather was bad for driving. I had another event in the neighborhood, and St. Mark's was on my way home. I'm not really a Christian anymore, but I've always loved walking into this huge, solemn space at St. Mark's with the great window rising above the altar.

Sunday night I walked in alone and saw another friend. One among the last of those I would have expected to see then and there. He had grown up in this church, he said, and had come back for help. "I'm here everyday," he told me. "What do you do?" I asked. "I pray," he said.

So the pagan and the born-again sat down together and listened to the O Antiphons.

The last of them, Antiphon VII, is O Emmanuel, which calls for the coming of the promise. In Latin, the ancient call is:

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster

More recently, Peter R. Hallock composed an Anthem for this service as a retirement gift for Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Sunday night was its Seattle premier. Accompanied by French horn.

He will come like last fall’s leaf fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child