Sanctissima: Meditations on a Dark Assumption Day

Sanctissima: Meditations on a Dark Assumption Day August 15, 2018

We got to Mass just on time.

That’s a rarity, bus routes being what they are, but we were lucky. I had no idea what time it was or if we were late when we stumbled in.

The organist began at once with the O Sanctissima, as if he’d been waiting for us.  

Rose asked if we could sit in the back. I was happy to. I wanted to sit in the congregation even less than usual, today. I didn’t want to sit in the church– not in the actual building nor in any body of believers. Not after yesterday’s news. Not with a thousand sex crimes against children hanging in the air.

O Sanctissima. O piissima, dulcis Virgo Maria. 

There’s a scratchy old bench in the very back of church, in the room just before the bathroom that doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. The ushers sit in there sometimes, and sometimes mothers nurse there if the cry room is crowded. It’s where they keep the fresh candles and the first aid kit.

Across from the bench is a plaque with a weird bas relief– a copy of the head of Mary from the Pieta. Just her head and nothing else, coming out of the plaque. She’s looking down, contemplating, overwhelmed by sorrow, but I can’t see what she’s contemplating. All I see is her face.

Less than two feet away, in the corner of the room, someone stuck an old greasy icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. She isn’t looking at Christ in that picture either– she’s staring, sad and solemn as most icons stare, and again I can’t see the object of her gaze.

Perhaps she’s staring so sadly at us.

O Sanctissima. 

Gloria in excelcis Deo. 

The queen stands at Your right hand arrayed in gold. 

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun. 

I was wearing my gold scarf in honor of Assumption Day, in honor of the psalm, an idea I cooked up on a happier day. It kept slipping off. Someone had dressed up the statue of Mary at the front of the church in a gaudy gold veil wrapped all round her body, complete with a tacky crown that was too small. Both the statue and I looked rather silly.

In the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, she wears black. And the Pieta is all gray.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.”

Then came the Gospel. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. I don’t want to hear that Gospel, not today. I don’t want to hear anything like it. I want God to tell me why the Church, the Bride He established to nourish my soul on earth, is such a monster. I want God to punish her, severely. I want to see these evil shepherds sorted with the goats on the left side and driven away into darkness so the children can be safe.

I want to hear the voice of God, and know that He is real, that He sees, that He suffers with the victims of His Church– that this is, indeed, His Church after all. That all this hasn’t been some elaborate prank.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. 

When, O Lord? How long? This is the promise You made to our Father, Abraham, and we are still waiting today. Isaac is still bound on that altar, today. Hagar, Ishmael and Elijah are dying in the desert, today. Rachel is weeping and none can console her. Israel has gone into exile. Jeremiah is in the well, and John is in the prison. The Church has fallen into ruin.

My friends are dropping right and left. They were too sickened to go to Church today. I don’t know when they’ll be back. I don’t know if they’ll be back or not.

When the Son of Man comes, will He find any faithful left on Earth? And whose fault will that be, when He left us in the hands of rapists and went away so long?

And then the world’s most worthless homily. Father did not mention the elephant in the room, of course. Not a word about the horrendous abuse that’s now public knowledge. Not a single word. There was a full page insert in the bulletin at the beginning of Natural Family Planning awareness week, all about how bad contraception is and how wonderful the various methods of NFP are, and the priest verbally exhorted us to read it from the pulpit. But not a word was spoken today about a thousand sexual abuses of children not an hours’ drive away. Why would Steubenville speak about sins committed by the clergy? Steubenville makes good money off of pretending the Church here on Earth is all glamorous and fun, with no need to repent. Honesty is not profitable.

If honesty were profitable, or if anyone cared more about human beings than profit, would this have happened?

O Sanctissima. 

We said the Apostles’ Creed instead of the Nicene. It confused me more than a little. There was no line about “all things visible and invisible.” At first I thought Father was saying the Nicene Creed and omitting that line on purpose. As if on this day, Assumption Day in Anno Domini 2018, we all spontaneously admitted we no longer believed in all things visible and invisible.

I still believe in all things visible and invisible.

That’s madness, but I do believe.

I believe that I will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven. I believe that I will see Him standing at the right hand of the Father. I believe that I will see that woman in black and gray who stares blankly from that Pieta and that dingy icon, clothed with the sun and standing on the moon, terrible as an army set in battle array. I believe that she will stand with the victims of abuse, against the clergy who did this to them, and those evil men will not be able to stand against her.

I can’t find her or her Son right now, in this stuffy little church where we don’t and mustn’t talk about abuse– and where the very fact that we don’t and mustn’t talk about abuse has allowed it to happen, a thousand times in recent history in the state of Pennsylvania alone. God knows how many times it’s happened in the Church as a whole. God knows what became of everyone involved. God knows what will become of us now. God is a thing invisible, now.

The Communion hymn was “I Receive the Living God and My Heart is Full of Joy.” This is something I believe. I received the Living God, and the One who is pure Joy did fill and overflow my heart. He cannot do otherwise. He gives Himself entirely to me, and I am finite so He fills me beyond my capacity. But I didn’t feel full, and I certainly couldn’t feel any joy.

If things go on as they are– if no changes are made, if the bishops keep stammering their “sadness” and “concern” without repentance, without resigning and going away, if everything goes on as it is– where will I be next year? On Assumption Day, Anno Domini 2019, will any of us still believe in things invisible?

When they started the closing hymn, Immaculate Mary, we left.

This isn’t a good piece of writing, I know. A good piece of writing has a strong conclusion, but there is no conclusion here because I don’t know how it ends.

O Sanctissima.


(image via Pixabay) 

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