Sunday, November 18, 2007
First Mass in a long, long, time...
Today I went to Holy Family, a local Roman Catholic church. It's my mother-in-law's church. In fact, she's the Director of Religious education. Ken grew up in this church, and there was that sense of somewhat vicarious nostalgia at being in the church where my husband, and man who doesn't go to church at all now, knelt, prayed, and connected with God.
Man. He used to go to church. Despite our interfaith marriage, which was heavy on the Jesus Claudia style, he made an effort to get to his church every Christmas Eve. And a few other services. I can't help but wonder if I weren't part and parcel of why he doesn't go now. Me and my unrelenting God hunger. Me and my clawing for the truth. His relationship with God was so much simpler. And I ignored it, because I was the one with "the truth."
Lord, have mercy.
So, I get there, and because I don't sleep normally it was hard to get up and be on time. I left here at about 9:40 AM. I figured Mom would already be at church. I didn't even bother to call her. She usually gets there by 9:00. No one went with me. You'd think we stayed up getting drunk and carousing for Fuzzy Pajama night, but none of that happened. Still, I was the first one up, and I headed out alone.
I walked into the Nave and I realize that I hadn't been there in maybe, 9 or 10 years. Holy moley! How does time pass so quickly? I didn't see the thing that looks like a birdbath I sometimes see on television. But there was a metal Holy Water Stoup, dry, and I was mildly disappointed.
Today I read about Catholic devotions that one could cross his or herself with holy water and it could bring to mind our baptism. The writer says the ritual purified her for spiritual action. She said if the stoup is dry she feels cheated. It's hard to settle. She feels as if it makes her own prayers dry. Like the holy water is some kind of spiritual activator.
That's one thing I love about rituals. They feed me in a very holistic way. I always feel protected when I make the sign of the cross. I think I'd probably like it even more, with a little water to quench my ever parched soul.
So I go inside the sanctuary, and I'll tell you the truth. I was mildly disappointed. I missed the beauty of the Orthodox church. The sight of the icons, taller than myself. Jesus. The Theotokos. John the Baptist. St. Raphael. These windows of heaven have welcomed me into God's house for 2 years now, and seeing them, shining gold, does something good for my senses.
I missed the incense. I don't know why there wasn't incense, but I noticed. But there were candles. Church isn't church without candles! Still. I didn't know I'd grieve the things I loved about church now.
But it wasn't all bad. There were hymns! How I missed them. And these were kinda funky hymns! I heard some Andre Crouch! And I loved Andre when I first came to the Lord. There was a lovely hymn called Bread of Life. I turned to this hymn by mistake. The priest said number 335, but I thought he said 325, but I think God wanted me on that one. Listen to these words:
I myself am the bread of life
You and I are the bread of life
Taken and blessed
Broken and shared by Christ
That the world might live
This bread is spirit
Gift of the maker's love
And we who share it
Know that we can be one
A living sign of God in Christ
Here is God's kingdom
Given to us as food
This is our body
This is our blood
A living sign of God in Christ
Lives broken open
Stories shared aloud
Become a banquet
A shelter for the world
A living sign of God in Christ
Okay. You might find that a little self-centered for worship, but it worked for me. I was surprised when I searched for the lyrics online how many people trash this song. I don't understand it. But I guess that shows the kind of Jesus freak I am. I'm not always standing in church singing to God. I need to remember that we, the Body of Christ, are a continuation of the Incarnation. We really do have this treasure in earthen vessels. Christ within.
My God! That's stunning.
I don't mind that He breaks me open. If He can serve me up to feed His hungry sheep?
Now you may think that's praying amiss. But that's where I am right now. Blessed, broken, and given. You'll have to take that up with Jesus if you don't like it.
At one point, we sang the Lord's Prayer. Oh man! I remember that! How I loved it. I loved it as a Methodist gal back in the day, when I fell in love with "Let us break bread together on our knees." That was before I became a "wild Penty," Ha! Thanks Terry for that one! It was before the songs changed to the call and response ditty's that surely are infused with the spirituality of my slave ancestors at the Church of God in Christ where I had my first, big juicy love thing with Jesus. I used to sing the Lord's prayer when I lived with demon lover. Man, I should stop calling him that, shouldn't I? But he really was evil. And I don't say that about many people. Anyway, he hated when I sang that. But it gave me much comfort. I think that's one reason why I chose it as central in Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man. In Mom's church, we sang it holding hands, and there was this old black man, and he'd lifted his hands so high to the Lord. Made me a little teary. There are so many of us God lovers, relishing every taste of Him we can get.
Some of us are glad to be in His house.
Then there were prayers. And God, I missed singing, "Lord, have mercy." I see what Augustine meant when he said, "He who sings his prayers, prays twice." I missed the rhythm of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
Finally, it was time to partake of the Eucharist. They do it just as beautifully. With just as much reverence. I almost RAN to the front to partake of Him. It's been weeks and weeks. And I missed Him in my mouth. I missed Him becoming one with me in the closest thing that comes to making love with Him I'll ever find in this life. It is during the Eucharist that we become one. His body enters into mine, and I receive Him, in all ways opening myself to Him.
But I just didn't have that boldness, even though I know, I know, I know He is mine. But the politics of bishops and popes and holy wars that should have never been fought got in my way, and I knelt there, with tears streaming down my face, because it just didn't make sense to me. He was serving Jesus, and I couldn't partake of Him.
I didn't understand it.
I think I'll go back home to St. Raphael's next Sunday, skipping even black Jesus church. I'll go back with the dilemma of still being as Catholic as I was the day I was born, yet in love with the Orthodoxy Liturgy, and crushed by an almost thousand year old battle, that I neither caused, or believe in.
Jesus prayed that they we all... ALL... may be one. Surely as He knelt with me in that church, Jesus wept.
We still have it wrong.
We still refuse to give Him what He asked of us.