There is a lovely, very old, Catholic church near my house. I just love it. The interior evokes a by-gone era of reverence and awe in the presence of the Lord. It is very small adobe structure in the Old Town of Albuquerque. It is generally difficult to find parking, but when I am able to find a spot, I enjoy going there to pray.
The interior, though originally dating from the 17th century, has been well-maintained. There are beautiful, well-made traditional statues and a restful color-scheme. During "tourist hours" they play reverential classical music CDs, such as Gregorian Chant. If there aren't too many tourists wandering through the church and talking loudly, it is a wonderful place to pray, and Jesus is there in a special way. If the red lantern is lit, Jesus is present in the tabernacle in the form of the Holy Eucharist.
People will say that God is everywhere, and I believe that is certainly true, but Jesus arranged a special way in which we can physically touch Him and even take him into ourselves. He told us that the bread was his body and that the wine was his blood. He said that he who does not eat his flesh and drink his blood has no life in him. He wasn't talking about cannibalism.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about the Eucharist, even among Catholics for whom the Eucharist is extremely important.
God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to be with us in our time-bound, physical plane. God, who made us, understands our limitations in our ability to comprehend God's immensity, his timeless nature, his unlimited love for us. He knew that we needed Him to come to us and speak to us in our language and to show us how to be with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to partake of His divine nature.
At the point when the priest "confects" the Eucharist and it becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord, the timelessness of the Lord intersects our time-bound world. Partaking of the Eucharist is a spiritual AND a physical union with our beloved Lord. It is a bonafide, authentic, mind-boggling miracle.
Last Saturday night, I went to mass at this wonderful little church. Walking into the cool and dimly lit building, I noted the lamp was lit. Jesus was there, in the tabernacle. I came early to be with Him before the mass started. After getting myself settled, I began to pray the rosary and felt my heart begin to soar.
A few minutes later, two ladies came into the church and sat two rows behind me. Immediately, they began to use the basest, most vulgar swear words. They also used the Lord's name in vain many times, saying, "Oh God" this and "Oh God" that. I felt my face begin to burn with embarrassment for those ladies and sorrow for the insults being given to our Lord. I waited to see if they would calm down, and their chat fest continued on, unabated. If anything, their voices became louder. No one else was talking. It was jarring.
Finally, I turned around and asked, "Would you just stop it?" The ladies were fifty-ish, well dressed and coiffed. One of them, the most vulgar of the two in her language, told me that she would "in a minute." She was haughty and angry in her expression.
I replied, "Swearing and using God's name in vain in church? You ought to be ashamed." She appeared stunned that I had said this. Her mouth dropped slightly and her eyes widened. She had nothing to say in reply. You could hear a pin drop in the church. I turned around and, after saying a prayer for the two of them, continued praying my rosary. Not a peep did I hear from those ladies.
In retrospect, I wish I had handled it differently. Instead of heaping shame on their heads, it would have been better if I had found a way to remind them that we were in the presence of Jesus in that moment. Of course, God is with us and sees all our actions and knows all our thoughts at all times, but He is not always physically present to us in our time space continuum. The presence of the Eucharist in the church IS the presence of Christ: body, blood soul AND divinity.
This is why, when we enter the church, it is time to recognize the special presence of Christ and behave accordingly. The mass is not an entertainment vehicle. If we are sitting in the pews, chatting away, as if we are waiting for a film to start, we are oblivious to the presence of Christ in the tabernacle. The way we behave in Church has a direct correlation to what we actually believe.
That night, after I received the Holy Eucharist, I went back to my seat to commune with the Lord. With my eyes closed and my hands clasped, I gave thanks for this wonderful touch of God, this incredible gift that Christ instituted.
When I opened my eyes, I happened to glance at the long line of people that were filing past my seat, on the way to receive the Eucharist. I was surprised to be looking directly at the bottom of a young teenage girl who was wearing cutoff shorts that barely covered her backside. If she had to bend over at any time, she would surely be showing at least half of what should not be shown. Never mind that this clothing is inappropriate in ANY venue, except maybe the beach, but for her to be wearing it in church was unfathomable to me. A grandmotherly type was with her, and I wondered why on earth she allowed the girl to go out in public half naked, but I know the answer to my own question.
The degree to which one is cognizant of the presence of Christ in the church is the degree to which respectful behavior and clothing are employed.
The last "hymn" of dismissal sounded like Mexican polka music. It was very peppy and very loud. I just sighed to myself and prayed for all concerned as I exited the building. I hope next time I am confronted people chatting loudly in church, I can do something to elevate my fellow Christian's faith. I don't know how I might do that, but I will be praying about it. Please pray for me in this regard.
In the meantime, God bless us all.