Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The comfort of liturgy

I sense that this will be a multi-post day :) so stay tuned for some belly dance talk if you enjoy that sort of thing. But it's been a tough couple of days and I wanted to write a bit about that first.

Death is one of those situations in which we take comfort in ritual and being in the presence of others, of our community. And ritual doesn't just involve a religious ceremony. The "wake" process always struck me as being a death ritual that many people find great comfort in. Having the deceased laid out for us to pay our respects to and pray in front of their mortal remains, leaving flowers, gathering together to talk and support each other, processing to the cemetery, etc.

And as a Catholic, I obviously find great sacredness, joy, and comfort in religious ritual and liturgy. It struck me anew yesterday at the funeral, which was at a Christian church of a decidedly non-liturgical bent. We sang some hymns, the pastor presented a sermon, the associate pastor read some scripture. All of these are very good things, things that Catholics do too, of course. :) I just find such great comfort in the standard words and pace of the Mass, in physical sacramentals like holy water and incense, in the presence of holy reminders like icons, statutes, candles and stained glass, in the Eucharist. Everything feels empty to me without the Eucharist, but I understand that not everybody believes as I do.

I'm certain plenty of non-Catholics feel uncomfortable in a Catholic worship experience, so it goes both ways. But I did miss my Catholic "stuff" yesterday quite a bit. This church, though, was very welcoming and the pastors very kind.

We're all still incredibly sad but glad to have the formal events behind us since those do suck the life right out of you. I found out about Michael's death this past Sunday morning, right before I went to Mass for the feast of Pentecost. To be honest, I didn't really feel like going anywhere after I found out, but I knew that Mass would be soothing, and it was. As I reflected on the death of someone that I loved, I realized that someone was being baptized during the Mass. Not an infant, but a young girl of maybe 13. She had on a beautiful white dress, it was so lovely. So it was a full circle sort of day. Someone had died, but there is also life, and where there is life, there is hope.

After Mass Henry and I lit a 7 day vigil candle for Michael. Henry's dream is always lighting a candle after Mass, and he was thrilled to be able to get "the big one." I appreciated having him there with me.

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