My mass stories are piling up, and I’m afraid I’ll forget them. I’m not sure if I’m ready to start on exactly why I go to mass, but I can say I enjoy it immensely. I read an article once by a young woman who was saying “yes” to new experiences and decided to try mass. Needless to say she complained it was boring and did nothing for her.
I was frustrated, because the thing about mass is not going the once and demanding spiritual enlightenment. For me the reward is in the routine. We go to the same mass, at the same time, with usually the same priest. Everyone sits in the same seats and does the same jobs and we all have our little ways. Thus are our eccentricities and in jokes born. No one asks what anyone believes. I’d say you’ve everything from the “belonging without believing” crowd to the fervent faithful. But we are a community, on a little journey together, every Saturday at 7pm. It’s warm and social and the only place I go where I don’t feel judged.
I’ve started reading at mass: a long story. I’ll tell it some day. But for today, one of the reasons I didn’t want to read was that on reading nights, I have to sit in the front seat, instead of with my parents and children (if they come) in our usual spot. I don’t like at all having to move, but one must give instead of always taking, so I do my duty.
The highlight of mass is the sign of peace. No matter how bored and drained, no matter how much day dreaming I’ve been doing, when the sign of peace comes, every tiny shred of negativity and distraction breaks down and hilarity and warmth ensue. Gone are the uncomfortable formal shakes to right and left that accompanied the original introduction of the sign of peace. My granny never got used to it and my father used to take pleasure in forcing her into it while we giggled. Mocking your granny at mass. We’re going to hell. [I know I’ve written that before, I can’t remember where]. Anyway, she’s dead now and we’ve all gotten over ourselves. Now we shake hands and laugh and wave at as many people we can. It’s funny. That’s when I think Mass is like Beckett. You have to see the humour in it.
Anyway, I was reading on Saturday, and took my place in the lonely front seat. When it came to the sign of peace, I glanced around and realised there was no one in the two or three rows behind me, so I forlornly turned back and waited for the murmuring and disruption to settle, feeling strange that I couldn’t join in.
Then suddenly this woman appeared. I don’t know her name but she’s a regular. She’s about my age. Eastern European from the accent. She has two adorable little girls who worship her. They sit in front of us so we’ve gotten used to them and their ways even though we don’t formally know each other. Intimate simply through the process of sitting together week after week and smiling and shaking hands and exchanging looks.
And it was she who had gotten out of her usual seat, 6 rows back and walked up and took my hand in both hers and said “peace be with you”. As I turned to greet her I saw the faces of all my usual friends behind us smiling and laughing that she had come all the way up so I wouldn’t be alone. It was the nicest, warmest, funniest, communal moment, when everyone knew that something quite different and wonderful had happened, but without anything other than those 4 simple words being spoken.
After mass when we walked down the aisle I caught up with her and said thank you, and she hugged me and kissed me and smiled and the little girls hugged me too. Everyone was so happy! “The spirit moves her.” my father said. I don’t ponder much about spirits or what moves whom or why, but yesterday was a hard day, and when I remembered her, the same warm happy feeling embraced me then as she had embraced me, so what does it matter?
I think the woman who wanted to say yes, should have given mass more of a chance. Enlightenment can come in a moment, but moments are built on moments.