I challenged myself this Advent to think about my Faith in new ways, and to open myself up to unexpected changes in my relationship to others and God. I also made a rather secular deal with myself to do at least one fun thing every day until Christmas in the hope of rekindling the spirit of the child who waits with hope and joy (and without stress) for December 25th each year. So I give you the Dark, the Light and the Hallelujah of my Advent journey.
On the fourth Sunday of Advent I overslept. Still, I wasn't concerned, knowing I could catch a 5pm service at St. Paul's in Harvard Square. After sledding most of the afternoon with a friend, we grabbed a cup of cocoa at Diesel in Davis Square. We got to talking and before I knew it, I was running late. My watch read 5pm exactly as the train pulled into the Harvard Square stop. I realized that I still had about a ten minute walk to the church. Thinking quickly, I decided to play things safe, stay on the train to Park Street and then take the Green line to a 6pm Mass at St. Cecelia's. Better to be early than late, I reasoned, the events of the previous week fresh in my mind.
I was freezing when I finally got to St. Cecelia's. While we were sledding I had failed to bail out of my saucer on one unlucky run and ended up in a small brook, which had soaked my clothes through. Still, I was early, and consoled myself knowing I'd have time to warm up and meditate before the service. But when I got to the door a sign posted read "Silence Please."
The church was full of candles. And empty of people.
"Welcome to Taize," a man greeted me warmly.
My dismay showed on my face and the man's face fell too.
"There's no 6pm Mass today because the students are all on break," he explained, "but you're welcome to join us for prayer."
The week before, as I partially alluded to, I was late to church and missed the Gospel reading. On top of being late, when I got in line for Communion, somehow the priest looked me over and returned to the altar without administering the Sacrament. I was left standing alone in the center aisle like lost toddler or a forgotten bride. God's unwanted child. No Gospel. No Eucharist. Essentially no Mass on Gaudete Sunday.
I'm a pretty terrible Catholic in plenty of ways but weekly Mass is a discipline that I practice the way some people play an instrument or do martial arts. I have attended Mass in many different cities, states and countries in all sorts of languages with all sorts of people.
And now, this Advent, at a time when I have been focusing more instead of less on my faith... I somehow managed to miss church two weekends in a row.
I thanked the man and took a copy of the music. I walked down the center aisle, my snow boots creating jarring noises in the silent room. The candle light danced all around me and I tried to remind myself of how much I love Taize services. I tried to tell myself that it would be good for me to just listen to God for an hour instead of just reciting all the traditional prayers. I tried to clear my mind. Then I knelt down and tried to stop myself from crying.