August 14th, 2012Not My Regular Massby Dena Hunt
I missed my regular Mass. Through my own fault, my most grievous fault, I had to attend the Mass with guitars and campsongs. It’s happened before. And I sit there enduring more than participating. I just can’t bring myself to sing an Our Father that sounds more like a tapdance than a prayer. And I confess (through my own fault, my most grievous fault) that when I have to attend that Mass, I look at the women around me dressed like streetwalkers, grown men in shorts and flip-flops—well, some readers may know what I mean….
We have at our Church a really beautiful crucifix. It hangs very high behind the altar, and directly beneath it is the tabernacle elevated on a raised dais. Today I made a decision to look at that crucifix during the entire Mass. I knew it would keep me focused on why I was there, I knew that if I kept my eyes there during the entire Mass, I could not be casting critical glances at my fellow worshippers or wishing the guitarist would break a string and have to quit….
So I fastened my gaze firmly on the crucifix. But if you’ve ever tried to stare at any fixed object for an extended period of time, you know that you can’t do it—not without your eyes crossing—so after a while, I had to rest my eyes by glancing at people around me.
I saw women so eager to be admired because they were so eager to be loved, not knowing that the admiration they sought was not what they really wanted at all…. I saw men who, in spite of their disdain for the “duty” of Mass, which showed in the disregard of their appearance, nevertheless believed—believed something they might not agree with, might not—in a different life from the one they had—have chosen for themselves. But there they were, believing that something enough to meet their Sunday obligation, enough to stand and sit and kneel, and recite a Creed which, if they listened to the words their own lips were saying, they DID believe—every word of it, actually. But because they’d been given those words by someone else, they didn’t know they were their own….
I watched the fat, middle-aged guitarist, twanging away, his eyes closed, his voice intense and full of a yearning for that which, if he had only known it, would have come to him in the peace of silence, if he had only known that what he wanted was not a product of his own efforts, not a product of something he’d seen and heard somewhere else, some other time, maybe long ago, something he thought he could invoke himself, that he could make happen here in this church as he’d seen and heard it there….
I had to look away from them, back to the Crucifix, because the human heart is much too finite, too small, to feel such love.