I attended my first Latin Mass today. I was looking forward to this all week, especially after my "Coming Home" session on Thursday that made me long for something substantial. Well, I got substantial, alright. Grade A Prime Beef. Yessireebob.
As soon as I walked in and saw many women wearing veils on their heads, I knew I was in a good place. I was with people who take the Mass seriously. It isn't rote for them. It isn't a drudgery. It's desirable, it's vital. It's life.
I was surprised by how many younger women wore a head covering. My husband and I had a discussion years ago about this practice. He used to attend a strict Church of Christ where all the women wore head coverings. I told him I wasn't sure if I could ever do that. One Sunday, I attended a non-denominational service with a colorful scarf on my head, just to see how it felt. Of course no one else was wearing any type of head covering. I felt kind of silly. That was it for me.
Or so I thought.
This morning, piety had a new face. It no longer was the sole ownership of elderly women who shuffled slowly to a pew. No, piety wore the face of a young woman, head bent down as she followed the service in the Roman Catholic Daily Missal with her husband. Piety was with the young mother with a black lace mantilla as she draped her arm around her young four-year old daughter, who wore an adorable straw hat. Piety was with the young man who sat behind me, kneeling in prayer after the service was finished.
This hunger, this desire to cross the barren land of secularism into the holy was what moved me to tears. The words were unknown to me but the heart cry was unmistakable. The chimes, the incense, the choir's voice in unity, spiraling toward heaven were used by God to remind me that this is a journey and I'm surrounded by the sublime microcosm of His eternal love. There is nothing too small that cannot be offered up to Him. And it is not ritual for the sake of ritual. All of it has meaning. I know this like I know the back of my hand. I may not completely understand the meaning, yet - but I know it is there.
I spoke with the priest afterward and shared with him that it was my first experience of a Latin Mass. He was a joy to meet, all smiles and obviously very much in love with what he does. This is what I enjoy - meeting priests who love what they do. Their desire opens doors for those of us still trying to figure things out.
I also shared with him what Pope Benedict had to say about church buildings with stained glass windows. Here is the full text:
I would like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations within the unity of the Mystical Body.(Pope Benedict XVI Sermon at St. Patrick's Cathedral)
The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.
The parish nearest to me is unfortunately the owner of one very ugly brick and mortar building. There is nothing grand about it. I do not feel challenged when I am there nor uplifted. They have three graphic windows that is simply modern designs of color and shape. There are no saints or angels or anything that I associate with aspiring toward heaven. I need this. I need imagery and ritual to shake off the sludge of the world and awaken my soul. I'll take this old church with the creaking wooden floor any day over some sterile, "modern" structure.
I think I found my church. :-)