So, this morning, in 7 degree weather, after going to bed at 1am following a wonderful night with my Book Club friends, I went to the 9am Mass at the Church of the Assumption. I assumed people would be there……wrong assumption!! Three ladies, two priests, and myself were the only ones there in that big, beautiful church! Although this could be the start of a bad joke….3 “regulars”, 2 “priests”, and 1 “visitor” walk into a church……it was actually quite nice.
The last time I was in that church was for my Aunt Rose’s funeral mass. I recall the place being packed. I stood among family and friends wiping my tears and thinking of so many moments in my life with her. I remember feeling very alone in my thoughts and sadness on that day, even though I stood in a building full of love and support. Looking back on it, I felt anonymous in that crowded church. Sure my friends and family knew me, but the people across the aisle did not, the priests did not, the older woman standing behind me did not. I would not let my words reveal my emotions, so I participated in the Mass quietly while wiping my tears. I was “just somebody who must have known Rose” from the perspective of others.
But this morning was different. In a big, beautiful church filled with statues, and wall hangings, burning candles, and all the Christmas decorations, we, the four attendees stood, sat, and kneeled beneath the crucifix while the priests went through the predictable routine of Mass. Each one of us could see the actions and hear the words of each other. I realized quickly that you can’t be anonymous or hide yourself when there are so few people there. The prayers you mumble through when others are there, are said more hesitantly when you can only hear your own voice. The message sounds more personal when the priest looks out to the pews and makes direct eye contact with you because there is nobody between you and him. The back and forth cadence of the prayers to prepare for Eucharist seem more intimate when the priest pauses and waits for your voice to be heard in response to his statements. It was hard to be my anonymous-self when there were only the 3 ladies, the 2 priests, and myself in that church this morning.
As I looked up at the crucifix hanging above the altar, I did have an “aha” moment. I realized that the same crucifix had, in fact, been there back in July. Unlike today, when I thought I was anonymous in the crowd back in July, I really wasn’t anonymous to that crucifix then! After being there this morning, I have to believe that He knew where I sat on that day in July. He knew who stood next to me, who stood across the aisle from me, and who the older woman was behind me. It dawned on me that no matter how crowded or how sparse the pews are, you can’t be anonymous in God’s house. He already knows each one of His guests!
Although I went to mass assuming I could be anonymous in a church I was visiting this morning alone, I actually shared a nice quiet start to the day with 2 priests and 3 lovely ladies!