September 23, 2009
If you can't guess what that passage Matthew 26:40 is, you'll have to look it up yourself.
A few times over the course of my guest-blogging gig here at Pat's Place, I'll be sharing some of what I've written for Envoy magazine over the years. As this is adoration night, I'm reminded of a column from issue 5.6 of Envoy—it was called “Of Sounds and Silence.”
And it went something like this...
I want to tell you about some beautiful noises and beautiful silences.
The first noise came from a young couple sitting behind my family at a recent Mass. They appeared to be dating—a deduction based solely on the manner in which I had seen them walking toward the church just before Mass. It was one of those glance-at-each-other, where-in-the-world-do-I-put-my-hands walks that makes even veteran adults look like shy teenagers.
I doubt either of them cared much about reaching a destination, but at Mass they arrived, still enjoying each other's company but forced to join the rest of the world for awhile.
As the first hymn began, they lifted their hymnals and joined in. The girl sang pleasantly, but the guy was at least three pews away from the melody (in musical terms, that's about two more pews away than Neil Young is on any given occasion). But listening to the guy was beautiful. He didn't care what he sounded like. He just wanted to sing.
And let me tell you (attention, gentlemen), the lady friend in this equation smiled sweetly on him throughout the proceedings, as they hunted for hymnal pages together. She obviously loved singing in church and appreciated the effort he was making.
Now, maybe this fellow was just using his hymnal as a ploy to get on his lady fair’s good side. To that I say, "Good for him!" Many people have been brought to Christ by the beauty of creation. And if memory serves, this young lady was quite a credit to creation.
He wouldn’t be the first man drawn to Mass out of his passion for a desirable woman, only to discover a passionate faith he never thought possible. If the way to a man's heart is trough his stomach, then maybe the way to his soul is through his heart.
The second noise I want to tell you about started out funny before it became beautiful. At Communion one Sunday, our organist launched us all into a spiritual.
Few things are funnier than a church full of white suburbanites making their way through a black hymn, but we actually did ourselves fairly proud (even if we did sound a little like the Pat Boone Chorale singing the Mahalia Jackson Songbook). And the noise was beautiful. There was sincere worship going on during that hymn—in no small part because spirituals are so wonderfully singable.
Now, for the beautiful silences.
The first one happened on All Saints Day at a church near my office, when the celebrant miscalculated the length of his chasuble and knocked over a full chalice while raising his hands.
His reaction was great. Judging by the face he made, and the way he clenched the offending hand into a fist, I think he was desperately trying to avoid slipping a few decidedly un-liturgical words into the Mass.
Father recovered just fine, but not before a far more interesting recovery happened among the pews. When that chalice fell, there was a gasp in every corner of the church, followed by a few seconds of very telling silence.
As held breaths were released, you could just about hear the collective thought, "Thank God, it was still only wine when it fell."
I'm sure I could have found people to disagree with me on any number of things Catholic in that church, but the thought of the Real Presence spilling wasted onto the altar registered as universally terrible to a diverse gathering of sins ad daughters of the universal church.
That was nice.
You know what else is nice? The silence I was enjoying while contemplating all of these occurrences recently...in the presence of Our Lord during Eucharistic adoration. It's the most beautiful silence you'll ever hear.
Go there soon. Bring all of your own random experiences and ask the Lord to make sense of them, to show you himself in them. You'll be surprised how many spiritually significant things happen during what seems like very, very ordinary time.
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