Fog hovered furtively over every roadway obscuring the brilliance of Autumn and masking the gifts of morning light. But there were cars in the lot when I got there; the service had started by the time I slipped into a back pew and breathed a sigh of relief.
I was surrounded by what is so familiar: neighbors in front of and behind me, the comfort of music, the altar central and waiting. A community gathered once again. A place where each and every one is welcomed in the generosity of quiet. There is space for presence to one another, space for each one’s acknowledgment of relationship with each other and relationship with God. It is not, after all, about just being there. It is about how those minutes are actually spent.
The leader of prayer focused on the Old Testament reading. From the graphic description of Joshua’s battle with the Amalkimites, he extracted simple and powerful images that spoke of something entirely different and totally relevant. He focused on Moses, on the account’s description of his hands raised in prayer during the battle. When Moses grew weary, he had assistance; others held up his arms up in prayer. Further support was literally built by the community. The emphasis was not on winning or losing, but on the idea of supporting one another, of choosing to reach towards God in prayer such as we are. The message was clear: living in realtionship with God is both personal and communal commitment. Lending support matters; we need each other, even such as we are.
Moments later, as Mass continued, that ring of support became so much more visible and so much more viable. The person in front, next to, behind: each one matters. Each has the other’s wellness, goodness, purpose and being in mind. The very act of kneeling there together is actually a living support, a statment of one for the other. The reality of the moments are synthesized in lived expression: there are the moments of adoration at the Consecration, of communion in the Sign of Peace, of solidarity in reciting together the Our Father. These are the foundational points of our Catholic identity, the cornerstones of what it means to be who we are. It is about living, sharing prayer together.
There is a beauty in it that transcends the razor-sharp points of issues that so easily divide communities and Catholics. Judgement, fear, threats, malice, the use and abuse of power, have no place here at this table. Prayer is deeper than all that, traces its paths like a stream that flows below and between the layers of the earth steadily shaping layered stone. Inevitably, the surface responds to the shifitng depths. The consistent, confident strength of that trickling water makes it happen. So it is with prayer.
After the service, in waves of conversation and laughter, the congregation moved toward the parking lot. Courageous colors adorned the paths to cars and the world was awash in a gray-skied Autumn morning. The fog had lifted.