Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Posture

I have become a crier. As I type these words, I can feel my teenage self rising up from the depths of my being and wrapping her hands around my neck so she can strangle me to death.

I never used to cry at anything. Ever. I mean sure, if I was angry or hurt I would cry. But at a movie? No way. As I got older I guess I grew out of that cynical shell and all of a sudden I am bawling watching this Reba video. Which involves the following screen shot I took while playing the video on youtube since apparently you can't watch this video directly on blogger.


Spoiler Alert: I just spoiled the plot of the video. Sorry.

True story. I cried at this video and when it happened I jumped out of my body, grabbed myself by the shoulders and began slapping myself about. What are you doing?!? Since then, and especially since having kids, I am a first-class crier. I cry at everything.

As much as I never wanted to tell that story to anyone, I have to admit that sometimes crying is the greatest relief in the world. Science still has no answer to why, exactly, we cry. And I guess you are thinking I've got some deep, heartfelt explanation for crying, but I ain't got nothin' either.

So a few weeks ago I was at mass with my family. And after I went up to receive communion, I held Lenny in my arms and watched the line of communicants as they came forward. Up comes this elderly woman who reminded me of my Nonna, with those thick-soled black orthopedic shoes and a slight limp, wearing a black lace veil. She can barely walk and yet when it's her turn to receive the Eucharist she gets down on her knees. And then Father Troy, God bless him, reaches out and grabs her hand, pulling her to her feet. He's pretty dang old himself and I'm sure that was difficult for him to do. She wasn't exactly thin. And I found myself with tears in my eyes watching this happen. I've become one of those weirdos who weeps during mass. Usually I'm just judging every. single. person.

Why is she wearing such a short skirt, I can see her whole entire butt hanging out...

Why would you even bother making the sign of the cross if you are doing it so disinterestedly, I mean what are you doing swatting a fly...

How can that guy even come up to get communion if he missed the whole first half of the mass...

Why are you chewing up the host like that, it's not a piece of gum...

Is that seriously a piece of gum in your mouth...

etc. etc. You get the idea. I'm basically a horrible person and I'm pretty sure the devil be tryna get at me err day at mass. Err day. I actually usually close my eyes after I get communion so I can just pray in peace and not get distracted. But this day I didn't. And when I saw this woman it gave me cause to think long and hard about our posture and how it is an integral part of our spiritual lives as Catholics.

People are always saying it doesn't matter how we present ourselves at church because God knows what's in our hearts and only He can judge us, yadda yadda yadda. Yet no one would deny that dressing up formally makes them act more professionally at work, or that dressing to the nines for a date makes them feel and act their best. Dressing up is a sign of respect for your boss, clients, girlfriend, etc. It shows the world that you are serious and committed. Not just the way that you dress, but the way that you present yourself. When you are talking with someone that you respect, you don't slouch, you don't check your phone, or chew with your mouth open, or show up late. You dress neatly. You pay close attention. You nod and listen. You make thoughtful conversation. And yet with God, many of us are so quick to just give so little. Just to show up to mass and let your mind wander and figure hey, I was there, I did my duty. If many of us acted towards our spouses the way we treat God, we'd have been served with divorce papers a looooooong time ago.

The mass is a moment for all of us when we are truly lifted into heaven and experiencing true worship among the angels and saints. If you actually believed you were in heaven would you really just swallow the body of our Lord like a dang jellybean and then wander back to your seat to go check the time on your phone? If we would remember the truth of what we experience in the mass, I know that all of us would be a lot more focused on that reality. The mass calls us to use all our senses and all our body in worship. This is why we sit attentively to listen, this is why we stand to affirm our faith, this is why we kneel in reverential prayer, and fold our hands, and sing and pray aloud. We are using our bodies to worship fully as God intends us to. The actions of our bodies serve to focus our minds on God.

And so to see this woman struggling to get down on her knees, to assume a posture with such intent, in order to receive the Lord, it struck a chord with me. Of course it is true that the person behind her with tattered jeans who didn't even stay for the end of mass may have been just as humble as this woman when receiving the Eucharist, or even more so than she was. But it is true that this woman chose to use her posture as a way to glorify the Lord and to focus her mind on the blessed sacrament. And all of us sinners can learn a lesson from this. We might not always be in the right frame of mind at mass. But our outward demeanor can have a profound affect on our inner disposition. When we intentionally and purposefully kneel and bow our heads, our crooked bodies help us get our heads straight.

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