I have been very busy in my life as a parish priest the past week and not had time to blog very much. There has been nothing dramatic, but the usual mixture of celebrating the sacraments, administering a growing and busy parish and school, ministering and trying to find more time to spend with people. In addition, Mrs Longenecker has started her own business–which is taking off–so there are more family duties to share at home. The omnipresent mother-taxi driver is no longer omnipresent for instance.
In the midst of this, celebrating Mass last evening at 6:30 I had the chance to meditate a bit further on the Catholic priest’s life. I celebrate the Wednesday evening Mass ad orientem– this gives me the chance to pray the Mass focussed more on God and not looking at the people all the time. The reality of the Mass hit home at a gut level. By the ‘reality’ of the Mass I meant that there was a certain certainty–a concreteness and solidity to it all. The conviction that HERE was reality. Here was the eternal made real in this present moment.
There was also the strange awareness of transcending time. Here I was in a simple church building in South Carolina at the beginning of the twenty first century wearing the robes of a Roman patrician, celebrating a Mass rooted in the liturgies not only of the ancient church, but further back–rooted in the Scriptures and liturgies of the Jewish people. Here the ancient principle of sacrifice was still being celebrated with solemnity and seriousness in a world blind to the reality of what was happening at the altar.
While the faith seemed so ancient and rooted in antiquity it was also tremendously alive and fresh. Here was life. Here was youth. Here was Spring. One of our new converts was in attendance–having come from the Assemblies of God–he has found his way into the Church. I said to him afterward, “Stay with this. The Catholic Church will sometimes seem to you to be full of human failure, incompetence, futility, fighting and frailty. But there is great treasure hidden in that muddy field. There is a great pearl buried in the dark depths of that chaotic sea.
In a time of silence I saw again that this life is the heart beating–hidden within the vulgar and flashy affairs of humanity. Beneath all the politics and power and pleasure and prestige this heart beats and this plan is being worked out which is in reality the hidden history of the world–the hidden history of the world’s salvation.