Catholicism, Part 2 (Visiting Church #18)
The sanctuary of this Roman Catholic Church is grand without being ostentatious. Modern and airy, it seats several hundred, with pews arrayed in four sections, each group angled to face the front. Behind the platform is an impressive marble wall with a large crucifix at its center. To one side, at floor level, is a statue of Mary.
As people enter, most dip their fingers in a vessel of water mounted by each door and touch their foreheads. Some then turn towards the crucifix, bowing slightly. Many, upon reaching their desired pew, quickly drop to one knee (genuflect) in the aisle. Once seated, about half flip down the kneeling rail. Some kneel as a quick ritual, while others linger in pious contemplation. For each of these actions, making the sign of the cross is a common conclusion.
Perhaps my memories of Church #5 have faded, but this Roman Catholic gathering seems more steeped in ritual, with a service that’s harder to follow. While the hymns are announced, the rest of the liturgy proceeds without direction. We think we’re prepared, but we aren’t. Some of the service uses a “Mass Prayer and Response” card and other parts use “Today’s Missal,” while much of the service follows neither, though perhaps we aren’t looking in the right place at the right time.
Much ritual surrounds the presentation of the Eucharist. Once again, I’m so fixated on the process that I miss contemplating its meaning. Then the service ends.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.