This morning, I went to daily Mass at a parish close to where I am currently house-sitting. As the Mass began, it became vaguely apparent that something was not quite as expected. A bit of a pause just before the sign of the cross, and a longer one between the Son … and Holy Spirit. I actually wondered for a minute if the priest had momentarily forgotten who the third person of the trinity was. And then I noticed him intermittently moving his jaw, mouth tightly closed, as though chewing on the next word – and it suddenly dawned on me that he was struggling with a speech impediment.
To my chagrin, my first thought at this realization was, “How did this guy make it through seminary?” Then my mind strayed a little further down that path and thought that he must, perhaps, have some remarkable pastoral gifts … still a little condescending in my thinking, maybe. But then something else happened: I found myself hearing the collect like I’ve never heard a collect before. And thus proceeded what must have been the most simultaneously halting and transcendent Mass I’ve ever attended, full of pregnant pauses culminating in words like mysteries … petitions … Jesus Christ … bread of life … majesty … memory … salvation … worthy … mercy … words made fuller and weightier in the anticipation, each culmination its own miniature eschaton.
I had come expecting food for the journey, and in addition to that received something else I wasn’t expecting: a lesson in the meaning of beauty.