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Sunday, December 20, 2009


This weekend, I decided that since I had time, I would drive down to attend the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF), going by myself for the very first time.  The first time I assisted at this form of the Mass was just over one year ago, the First Sunday of Advent, the first one in 40 years at the Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul.  

Although I was fairly familiar with their Latin Ordinary Form (OF), I found the EF to be quite different, but even MORE transcendent.

I knew that I had to go today but didn't understand why. God often doesn't reveal His intentions for us.

Although the little clipper that came through last night made driving a bit treacherous, I decided that it was worth it, and so I took my rosary in hand and drove carefully through the Cities to reach the Church that was my destination.  With gratitude I nearly "fell" into the pew, knowing that in a sense, I was on my own. There wasn't anyone there to help me find my place or make sure I didn't stand when we were supposed to sit.

(As an aside...I always forget that during the EF at a certain point in the Credo, we SIT for the remainder of it. I don't understand this which is why I can't remember to do so. I seriously need to study this form of the Mass, every move and why we do it.)

I have to admit that as I drove to Mass this morning, praying not to spin out on the icy curves with an arrogant SUV on my bumper to "help" me out of his, no doubt, very busy way, I asked God WHY I was so drawn to brave the roads I hated so much to go to this particular place.  Was it out of a sense of needing to suffer for what I love?  What?

I didn't expect to go to Mass and "feel" something.  In actuality, I knew I was trying to feed my soul, to get away from the campy music that characterizes the Mass at my home parish in favor of something that could really draw me into the Mystery, if only I had the proper disposition.

So often, though, even when I arrive at Mass, anywhere, with a "proper disposition", I find myself distracted by the most minute details of my life...or someone else's life...or some other thing.

Today, that didn't happen. By God's great grace, for the first time in a LONG time I was only minimally distracted.  I only just now realized how miraculous that is.

The Moment

There was a single moment, though, that struck to me to the core, and that truly drew me into the Sacred Mystery.  I was trying to find our place in the book, sometime during the consecration, finding it necessary to read the English translation.  Even though I was behind (I'd heard the bells to signal the consecration), I read the words prayed by the priest, standing up there as a representative Called by God to be there, praying for US, for OUR own sacrifice to be offered in union, for OUR silent prayers to be heard.

As it did a year ago, this reality affected me yet again, perhaps even MORE deeply as I realized yet again that even though during the offeratory I had offered myself as a sacrifice, I had brought certain intentions to be placed upon the altar, there, the priest who didn't know me, my intentions, or anything, standing in persona Christi offered those very things to God...and there I was, in HIS presence when it happened.

It was a moment of abjection as I realized once again that I do not know how to pray for myself or my intentions as I ought. It was deeply humbling, as it should be. It made me, in a sense, "let go", and in that surrender, God took over once again.

In that moment I was drawn forward and upward, taken into the Paschal Mystery, becoming a part of it. I had a deep, deep sense of gratitude that completely overwhelmed me. Gratitude for the Incarnation, for the Holy Sacrifice...for EVERYTHING. At the same time, I had an equally deep sense of absolute sadness for the reality of sin that made the Cross so necessary to our Salvation.  I could not separate the sadness from the gratitude, and even as I knelt at the Communion rail, I had to take many deep breaths, willing the tears away, trying to focus on the moment, on WHO I was receiving.

After Mass I remained where I was, pulling my veil low, hoping no one noticed the tears that flowed so freely. I realized THAT'S why I was called to that Mass today, to finally be fully present, according to my own limitations, just as Christ is so fully present all the time.  There was no one there to distract me. As the crowds left, they went about their business, tending to their families, chatting with their friends.

I was so grateful not to be a part of the Sunday Exodus as usual. I was where I wanted and, more importantly, NEEDED to be.

I wanted to stay there forever. Even as my eyes streamed with tears, I wanted to remain, kneeling, at the foot of the Cross.

What can I say but that I am grateful for today's Mass? For God's Grace, a rare one that took me right into His Most Sacred Heart.  It wasn't mere "feeling", not "emotion", but something deeper that passes beyond words.  It is not something that makes me holier than anyone else, but rather, reveals to me how much I lack. I ask you also not to misunderstand, for it was also NOT a moment of infused prayer, but rather a time of clarity, a gift of love that is probably quite common, just one that is beyond words. As it is, I am butchering it which leads me to believe I should not be writing of it at all.

No doubt the next time I attend Mass, in any form, it will be dry, dry, dry, as it is normally.

I do not attend Mass to be entertained, but because God commands it, I love Him, and so I go to profess my love for Him as well as to know more deeply His love for us all, even if I don't "feel" it.

But today, I was drawn in, taken up, and experienced the transcendence that turned normal people into Saints. It is no wonder they progressed so far. I hope they are praying for us all.