October 2, 2009
I usually go to the same mass time each week. However, last week, I decided to go to the 9:00 PM mass. That Sunday evening also happened to be one of the biennial outdoor masses. The weather was crisp. Fall had come several days earlier, and it was now showing its colder side. The wind was blowing steadily and, after the sun set, the days’ warmth was blown away by the time mass started.
The mass was held in the Jesuit Gardens – a small courtyard area surrounded by substantive trees, statues, and the Jesuit residence. The space is very suitable for facilitating community with other and camaraderie with nature. However, as mass began, the wind blew over the microphones with a crackling noise emanating from the speakers, the lectionary’s papers flipped, and many student huddled together on the tarps to keep warm. Many students appeared to see the mass as a disappointment because nature was “distracting” from the celebration of the Eucharist, because they couldn’t hear the homily, there were no songbooks, or because it was chilly.
It was hard to hear the homilist, but I could hear God very clearly. There were no songbooks, but the songs of nature were still echoing through the garden. It was chilly, but the warmth of God and community was truly present in this mass. I felt God’s presence and nearness in the wind, in the brisk air, in the damp grass.
This mass made me reflect on what is a church? My experience last week made me realize that, although the space within the structure of the Church is sacred, God is not confined to this place. In fact, God was more present to me last week when the walls were replaced with trees, the ceiling substituted for a faintly starry sky, and the pews abolished for damp tarps and blankets. It is evidence that God is present in the church, but can also be intimately close in a cool, blustery evening mass.
Home: St. Paul, MN
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