I was working on a post earlier today but didn't have time to finish it, and may not tomorrow, so, briefly:
A remark from a priest seen on Facebook on Thursday: "I thought I was having an epiphany this morning but it was transferred to Sunday."
This evening my wife and I were shamefully late for Mass. We deserved to be escorted to the front pew and mocked, but fortunately that's not done. We sat on a bench in the lobby with a woman and a girl, presumably mother and daughter and presumably also having been quite late to Mass, though not as late as we were. (I know "lobby" is not the right word, but this is a fairly modern building and that's what it feels like. Fortunately, for the kind of architecture it is, the building is not unpleasant.) The doors were closed but there's a speaker in the lobby which is wired to the priest's microphone. That made for a slightly odd effect, since we could hear the priest very well, and during the hymns a few voices from people who were especially close to the priest or especially loud, including one especially loud but not very tune-capable one, and not much else. The choir was audible but muffled.
Feeling that we really ought not to receive, we remained where we were during communion. During that ten minutes or so I couldn't hear anything much except the soft near-whisper of the priest: Body of Christ. Body of Christ. Body of Christ. I could see people leaving and returning to the pews, including a little boy who looked no more than eight and is in a wheel chair and seemed eager. So many people, so many unique little worlds full of unique and yet universal thoughts and cares and hopes and pleasures.
It was quite beautiful to kneel there while that was going on, to watch the people, to hear Body of Christ. Body of Christ. Body of Christ, on and on, like little waves splashing quietly on a shore.
The choir sang "What Child Is This?" As you probably know, the tune is an old English folk one called "Greensleeves," and no words of mine can do justice to its beauty, which will last as long as music does. But I had never given any thought to the English words written for it. I had unthinkingly supposed that they were traditional, too, or at any rate anonymous. But they were written in the 19th century by William Chatterton Dix, and they are extremely well-wrought. Since I was old enough to notice and understand them I've loved these two lines:
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here
The silent word is pleading.
I think it's that paradox of the silent word that gives me such a sense of reverence bordering on awe. "Fear"? Isn't that out of place? No, not if we really grasp what's going on. And I always notice that it's "Christian," singular. Not a collective but you, me.
"So many people, so many unique little worlds full of unique and yet universal thoughts and cares and hopes and pleasures.
It was quite beautiful to kneel there while that was going on, to watch the people, to hear Body of Christ. Body of Christ. Body of Christ, on and on, like little waves splashing quietly on a shore."
Very nice. Captures what is really the strongest pull of the Mass for me.
Posted by: Marianne | 01/09/2023 at 01:20 PM
Thank you, and that's interesting. I do sometimes think along those lines about my fellow churchgoers, but I was only thinking quite the way that I was because I was hearing "body of Christ" so prominently--way above the sound of the choir, for instance.
Posted by: Mac | 01/09/2023 at 05:06 PM
When I lector, I have to sit in the front pew, which means I receive Communion first and then everyone else walks up alongside me and then across my field of vision. I am often distracted by this so I try to turn it to prayer by thinking along those lines. Can't say I'm always successful.
Re: the lines you quote, we attended a Christmas poetry party where someone commented on how many of the poems juxtapose birth and death, innocence and sin. My daughter also noticed this about Christmas carols, once you get past the first verse.
Posted by: Anne-Marie | 01/10/2023 at 12:08 PM
Occasionally I have been sitting in the very front pew or on a chair against the back wall. I mostly look down after receiving communion, to try to keep from being too distracted, but in those cases I'm distracted by the parade of footwear.
Not surprising about the carols, since those things are such an integral part of the faith.
I remember not quite understanding the refrain of this verse of "Joy to the World":
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
I guess my religious education (Methodist), although it certainly dealt with sin, didn't speak of a "curse."
Posted by: Mac | 01/10/2023 at 02:23 PM
Here's a nice instrumental and accompanying video of "What Child Is This?" by someone who comments here sometimes.
Posted by: Mac | 01/12/2023 at 06:07 PM