It's Ash Wednesday. I did the Holy Day of Obligation thang and heard mass at St. James Cathedral early this morning.
While it's true that I've always preferred the fellowship and community that a small parish brings, St. James' always leaves me feeling breathless when I worship there. Every. Single. Time. The atmosphere, the artwork, the music oh sweet Christ the MUSIC! I sometimes go to the Cathedral just to listen to the organ if nothing else. I effing love organ music. One of my Absolute Favorite Things Ever is not only listening to the organ, but physically FEELING the delicious vibrations in my chest as the music is played and the notes go lower and lower.
As I sat waiting for the 8 am mass to begin, I couldn't help but be a pleasantly surprised at the number of young(ish) people in attendance this morning. I shared a pew with a tired looking young lady wearing scrubs, behind me were three young men in jeans and hooded sweatshirts. Students sleepily yawned as they knelt to pray, and young professionals double checked their phones to make sure that the sound was turned off. I caught the eye of Scrubs and we shared a smile.
It's nice to know that there are at least a few pew-fulls of "twenty-somethings" living in Seattle who will go to mass without being dragged there by their mom.
This year for Lent, I've decided that I'm not going to focus so much on "giving up" a worldly indulgence (although the hubs and I ARE doing that; we're giving up sugary soft drinks). Lent is a season of reflection, and as I reflect on my life so far, I find that I have a lot to learn in the way of following Christ.
The bible readings this week really struck a chord with me, especially the Gospel (Matthew 6, 1-6, 16-18):
1 "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 16 "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
My relationship with God is a deeply personal one. And like many of my deeply personal relationships, my bond with the Lord has grown and matured in the same way that my friendships and romantic relationship has matured...my worship of Him now is very different than when I was confirmed eight years ago; heck, it's much different now than it was just three years ago!
The similarities between my growth as a Catholic and my growth as a girlfriend/fiancee/wife are uncanny. In my youth, I showed my love for the Lord by loudly proclaiming it! I sang on the Life-Teen worship squad, I was a card-carrying member of the "Grace Girls"...it's quite clear that I was wearing my faith like Flavor Flav wears his clocks.
It seems that I was (and often still am) quite fond of sounding my trumpet.
When John and I were first dating, we were insufferable lovebirds. If we were to meet in public before going out on a date, I would run into John's arms and he would pick me up and swing me around at least TWO times before we continued. We would always be holding hands, exchanging wistful glances, stealing kisses, the like. (not long after, when we figured out that our outward displays of affection made my sister REALLY uncomfortable, we turned it up a notch since her reactions to our constant spit-swapping was HILARIOUS! Love you, Susie!) We always made sure that the world knew that John + Jackie = <3.
It's taken about three and a half years, but John and I seem to have finally come down from the clouds. We don't go out of our way to act like lovesick puppies as much (in public). I find that I'm just as happy sitting with him quietly at home as I was when he would pick me up and swing me around. No words need to be said, no grandiose action needs to be taken...I am perfectly content to be sitting in the presence of the man I love most.
I love my Lord and Savior above all else. As I sat there, contemplating on the ashes, the readings, my peers, my marriage, my life...I felt a very real and comforting peace surround every fiber of my being.
I don't need to make a huge spectacle of myself in order to nurture my relationship with God. John and I feel just as affectionate and romantic when we quietly read on the couch together as we once did running through the woods giggling like a couple of idiots. In the same way, I feel God's beautiful presence in the peaceful silence of the Cathedral just as much as I once did when I was leading worship music.
Just sitting in His presence is enough to open my heart.
This year during Lent, I'm going to focus less on the outward displays of affection...and I will silently and humbly ask that God guide my heart with his peaceful silence.