Friday, February 01, 2008
This evening I assisted in preparations for tonight's Cana Dinner, enjoying decorating for the annual feast, and thrilled that I'd be able to attend First Friday Mass as usual, even though I was working. Part of what I was there for tonight was to assist the musicians, which meant that I had to sit near them in a side wing pew.
I am quite familar with this particular Gospel message; my regular readers will remember a post I wrote on the Wedding at Cana, based upon a talk I had heard, and then one I gave. But tonight, the message came home to me in a different, very special way.
All afternoon as we decorated, I had a sense of "Cana" that I couldn't shake, but I didn't get a chance to go to the Chapel to consider it for awhile. At Mass, even though I was happy to be there, I felt like the odd one out when I surveyed the church full of married couples. I was the only single woman there, save for a family that was attending the Mass, yet they at least were connected to each other. I had no one. It's not that I felt my presence was not legitimate; it was more a matter of feeling as though I stood out, and couldn't maybe relate properly to the couples who were present for the evening.
Then, during his homily, Father spoke about Theology of the Body, and the way he described it brought it home to me in a way that clarified what God had been trying to convey to me all day.
I was brought face-to-face with my singlehood, while reflecting on the wonderful joy of marriage. Yet I also realized the absence of what Father was describing in my own family, due to my parents having been divorced when I was eight. I realized that I'd never SEEN that beautiful reflection of God through the marriage of my parents, and further, how many other people out there have been deprived of the same thing. I realized the importance of the marital relatioship, and what it tells us about God Himself and His complete love for us.
This reflection saddened me nearly to tears. In fact, several times I had to blink them back, but throughout Mass, my eyes were almost literally shrink-wrapped in tears. I considered the teen musicians and prayed they were paying attention and making the connection with the witness of so many married couples. I realized there was likely a good number of them who ALSO desperately needed to see and understand this wonderful image of God, the foundation of society that has come so under attack.
Yet singlehood continued to be a running theme as I reflected on my presence there that evening. I was there for a reason, and I had indeed contributed to the celebration, in a way that would be unsung, and that gave me joy. I was proud (in a good way!) about what we as a group accomplished to prepare, and that it was truly a spirit of service and hospitality that worked through us all in order to bring a message of the love of Christ to those who would attend.
But I was also struck by the focus on marriage for this event, with the juxtaposition of my presence as an old maid single woman. It was that moment that I recognized my poverty before God, and even as that particular sword went through my heart, there was joy, for God never reveals difficult truths without also revealing His love. And in fact, the two concepts are one and the same.
As a single woman, I have no one else. I have no real "status". I have no one else to lean on; I have only God. If something seperates me from God, I am to blame, for I have no spouse to accuse. Every day, every moment, I can only belong to Christ, and it is my very poverty as a single woman in special need of His grace that brings me to him. And through the recognition of this reality, I also realized my desperation to receive Him in Holy Communion.
Last semester in our Spirituality class, our professor spoke of the desperation we should all have, akin to the desperation of the woman with a hemorrhage who touched Jesus' tassel and was healed. We should all have that desperation, and that faith.
I've also been planning a talk for next Tuesday on the subject of Lent, which partially consists of the topic of spiritual poverty. For it is spiritual poverty that allows us to see God and to know Him. We cannot approach the throne of grace unless we are aware of our poverty.
Tonight, I saw my poverty in a new way, and the recognition brought me to the desperation of knowing I can do nothing at all without Christ. I am completely lost without Him. I am completely alone without Him....because I have no one else.
After Mass, the DRE told me that I had a spot at the table with her, Father, and the speaker, and with the scent of the wonderful dinner awaiting, I thanked her. (And tried not to drool too much!) My stomach was rumbling, and really, I wanted nothing more than to sit down and share the feast with all the fine people present.
But there WAS something I wanted more, and had already received; Jesus. I wanted to be with Him, in silence and prayer, pondering the incredible love he revealed to me tonight. And somehow, the idea of staying for the dinner seemed somehow wrong; I didn't belong there. I was the only single woman in the room. No, no one knew that, but I did, and it didn't feel right to me to be sitting there with such fine company.
I can't really explain that sense of not belonging, but when I went inside and sat down for a moment to tell the DRE and Father that I would not be able to stay, that feeling was confirmed. I had to get away. Certainly I LOVED the company, all wonderful people, but tonight I had to turn down the invitation.
After I left the dinner, mouth watering as I walked past the buffet table, I went into the church for a moment to pray. But it wasn't until I was en route home that the message of Cana came to me.
Normally I like to listen to music while I drive, but tonight, I needed the silence, and in that silence, God spoke to me. I came to understand that tonight, I had a role in the Gospel, and it was a role that applies to me both as a single woman and in my work at the parish.
Tonight, I was the servant.
I could hear Mary's words speaking to me, "Do whatever he tells you." And in my mind's eye, I could see Jesus turn to me and direct us to fill the jars with water. I considered the labor of the day and the purpose of our labor. I considered the doubts that I've had since I began my current work and my grad school studies. What am I doing? Why? What is really happening here?
In the Wedding at Cana, the servants acted out of obedience, not really understanding the task at hand, but doing it anyway. And in the end, it was they, the most humble and insignifant, who had a front row seat to the miracle that took place. The servants knew that the jars were filled with only water, for it was they who worked to hard to make it so, according to the direction they had been given.
But it was the Steward, who knew nothing of the previous events, who encountered the miracle, before the astonished eyes of the servants.
The servants don't get to taste the wine. The servants don't get to sit with the honored guest even to eat the scraps. The servants fade into the background, knowing they were blessed to have had a front row seat.
Tonight, I was a servant, and it would not have been proper for me to stay. It was proper for me to leave. Had I remained, certainly it would have been by invitation and would still have been proper, but had I done so, I would not have understood the lesson God had in mind for me.
This lesson goes far beyond tonight, for it encompasses not only my status as a single woman, but also the integrity of my work, the virtues of obedience, humility, and charity, and the understanding of what it means to be present at the true Wedding Feast of the Lamb, knowing that I am a Bride.
I need nothing more than the Divine love of Christ, nothing more than to know that I have been called to serve Him, nothing more than to recognize my poverty and that alone, nothing can seperate me from the Bridegroom who awaits us all.