“The Only Living Boy in New York” — Here I Am

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

“The Only Living Boy in New York” is my favorite song by Simon and Garfunkel. It was one of their final songs as a duo being recorded in late 1969. Its origin comes from Art Garfunkel’s departure from New York to Mexico to film “Catch 22” (“Tom, get your plane ride on time / I know your part’ll go fine / Fly down to Mexico…”).  It is a great acoustic guitar song, with wonderful melody and lush vocals. The song’s bridge in its final presentation is fantastic fun to play, but it’s the lyrics of the bridge that win my attention:

“Half of the time we’re gone / But we don’t know where / And we don’t know where.”

Absence of mind. Distractions. Day dreaming. Flights of fantasy. We’re all guilty of Simon’s non-criminal indictment. Our ever-active consciousness produces wandering minds. Our minds wander everywhere in our lives. They wander in Vespers, Matins, and in the Divine Liturgy. But, for example in the Divine Liturgy, we are repeatedly called to pay attention. At the conclusion of the Little Entrance we hear, “Let us attend!” We also hear, “Let us attend!” prior to the readings of the Epistle and the Gospel. We are called to pay attention prior to the Great Entrance:

Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and who sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly cares.

Why? We are given the answer:

That we may receive the King of all, who comes invisibly upborne by the angelic hosts. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

We must have presence of mind not only in worship, but in the everyday, mundane activities and settings of life. We are to be attentive at home with family, at work, in the marketplace — everywhere we find ourselves. We must also know who we are in Christ: we are priests. All Christians are priests by virtue of their baptisms. Our union with Christ brought about by this sacrament so empowers us to be who we are to be, and act as we are to act. Again we are priests, and we bear Christ to all we encounter — even being Christ in all situations and contexts! We dare not be mindless and unaware of who we are in Christ.

Let’s return briefly to “The Only Living Boy in New York.” The song moves to a beautiful “choral” reply (featuring Garfunkel’s gorgeous voice as if singing in a cathedral) to the indictment: “Here I am.” With this reply I am reminded of a similar reply made by the Prophet Isaiah after he has seen a vision of the Lord. We read from the sixth chapter of Isaiah :

So I said, “Woe is me, because I am pierced to the heart…for being a man and having unclean lips, I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips; for I saw the King, the Lord of hosts, with my my eyes!” Then one of the seraphim was sent to me. He had a live coal in his hand, which he took with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth, and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips. Your lawlessness is taken away, and your sin is cleansed.” I also heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people?” Then I said, “Behold, here I am, send me” (Isaiah 6: 5 – 8).

The coal which cleansed him prefigures, as a Type, the Body and Blood of Christ — the Eucharist — which again cleanses us with each Communion. Our union with Christ is also fortified by the Eucharist (John 6: 53 – 56), and our priesthood is confirmed once more. As the Divine Liturgy comes to its conclusion, we acknowledge our commissioning as priests: “Let us depart in peace.” We depart out into the world. Its is here that we too are to listen, attend, be mindful and present, and say “Here I am!” As with Isaiah, our private, personal replies also open us to be used by God in every situation in which we find ourselves. Out in the world we extend the Eucharist to all and for all and all things. With presence of mind and purpose we, “Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all things for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thes 5: 16 – 18).

Allow me to extend to you by this audio link Simon and Garfunkel’s wonderful song.

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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