Monday, September 3, 2012

Spiritual Atheism – lost comfort

I went to church on Sunday with my family. It was the two-year anniversary of my father’s death and the mass was being offered in his memory. During the intentions, they listed those who had been buried from the church in the past month, including my mother. I went to mass in part out of familial obligation; but also, since my mother’s funeral, I have been thinking about how comforting the mass was. I knew all the songs, I was familiar with the readings, I prayed and knew all the words.

So, it really was with high expectations of finding that same sort of comfort that I went to mass this week. It had been a tough weekend, missing both of my parents, and I needed some tradition to hold onto.

I didn’t get it.

The church I grew up in was closed by the archdiocese several years ago. The congregation joined with a smaller church that was actually closer to my parents’ house. This new church is completely different from the great, cathedral-like structure I was used to. The new church is 1970s architecture; a church in the round. And, the traditions are different: they hold hands during the “Our Father,” the choir is on the alter rather than in a loft at the back (the ceilings are not high enough for a choir loft), they keep their hymnals on a table by the door rather than in the pews, so I didn’t get one.

All of these cosmetic differences remind me that this is not the congregation of my youth, but still, they are surface differences that I could cope with.
What took my sense of comfort away were the changes in the mass itself. Words have changed; the places where you sit and kneel and stand have changed.  The part that most upset me was, preparing for the Eucharist, when the priest used to say:

Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.

But now, instead of saying “for you and for all” he said, “for you and for many”.
Oh my, not all? This felt so limiting, so exclusionary.

Now granted, I was (and am) an emotional mess. Still, I went to church for comfort and left feeling unwanted. You can say I’m over-reacting; I say I am simply reacting. This was my reaction.

My sister, who does attend church regularly (or at least did when my father was alive), has been complaining about the changes in the mass for a long time. My father complained before that. I listened, but their complaints meant little to me at the time. I have been to mass a few times since the changes took place, but they didn’t truly register; I wasn’t fully invested in the mass the way I was this weekend. Now I understand why they were so upset.

I won’t claim that the Church made a mistake with these changes. I have to assume that they had their reasons, and their intentions were good. I won’t presume to suggest I know better than they what is good for the church. Certainly, I do not. But, I will say that these changes were bad for me. They took away the comfort I was seeking. And now, I am a bit lost.

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