There is a woman at my church who I think is really beautiful. She catches my eye every week and when I see her, there is a sense of warmth that I feel as I rest in her presence. Sometimes at mass she sings or she will read and I delight in those moments. I don’t know this woman personally, but friends have pointed her out to me. One friend said that she is studying to be a priest, which in my church, is not unheard of, but in all of Catholicism, her vocational journey is rarely supported.
I don’t know why I am drawn to this woman but I suspect that I see a part of myself in her…and in really, I revel in that.
Yesterday evening I went to the Good Friday service with friends in my community. I saw this woman in the back of the church. A friend told me her name, mentioned that her ordination was coming up and he went over to shake her hand. There were others going over to shake her hand too. She was wearing simple white vestments, like and alter server would wear and I remember saying to myself, “we must be blessing her tonight.”
I had no idea that a simple ordination blessing (as revolutionary as that is) was not the only thing in store.
As custom in a Good Friday service, everything is stripped down. We are a church of the faithful, a cross and the holy Eucharist. Priests wear simple vestments, alter cloths have been put away and the incense comes out. The reverence about the evening is what I appreciate most and last night was a very powerful moment for me.
The procession began as normal and there….there she was again, at the back of the line, where the celebrant is accustomed to walking. Our parish priest was in front of her and he was carrying the foot of the cross while two other women lifted the sides. I smiled to a friend thinking that this symbolic gesture was really beautiful and in my heart of hearts I would have settled for that, hardly knowing that her presence could be so much more.
They processed to the alter, and this woman….this beautiful, God filled woman stood at the alter and began the service with some opening remarks. I remember melting, looking around in amazement thinking that what I was witnessing couldn’t be true. I wondered if I had missed a memo in the bulletin. And as I looked into the eyes of my friends around me I saw the same gaze of utter joy and amazement. We were witnessing something beyond our expectations…
We began, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
I took a very deep breath and smiled…relishing in the symbolism. And she continued on… and I continued to be completely struck with just how beautiful this moment was going to rest in my heart.
There were other women and men who did the first two readings and the passion of Christ, according to John was read. Three women read the passion, representing each part, and our priest….she represented the voice of Jesus. It was all so very moving…
After the Gospel was the sermon…done by ANOTHER WOMAN who carried herself with poise and dignity. She spoke and we were all glued to the importance of her words. And yet, I wondered if this was it. I wondered if the next piece of the service would also include women. I thought that maybe during the Eucharistic blessing things would change. I thought that a man might take over now….and then he didn’t.
Knowing that the Eucharist was already consecrated the night before, as per tradition in the church, I detected the loophole of the situation and thought of it as irrelevant during that time because the actual reality was right in front of me. And as she held up the small wafer for all of the congregation to see, I breathed deeply again.
I remember the words coming out of my mouth, “Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the words and I shall be healed.”
I shall be humbled
I shall be stripped of my assumptions
I shall be rid of the box that I sit in
I shall recognize the fear that stops me
I shall realize love in my life
I shall embrace the goodness of transformation
I shall be filled with spirit
I shall BE without counting the cost
I was humbled in so many ways yesterday evening…stripped to reveal pieces of my core and gestures of possibility. Joy might be a good word to explain my state of mind, reverence as I walked up to kiss the cross.
There was a woman who celebrated mass at my parish last night.
A beautiful, God filled woman celebrated mass at my parish last night.
Our priest celebrated mass with us last night and her presence was powerful.