As the world agrees to move Daylight Savings Time earlier and earlier in the year, I feel more and more like I’m being lied to. This morning the sun’s light said just-past-dawn when it was long past the time I usually rise, and I was totally disoriented. On the bright side, it gave me an excuse for leaving the house later than I expected, literally running outside to put washer fluid in the Jeep before screeching off down the road.
Hurried failure to close the hood of the car fully came back to bite me when 50 miles later I could be found pulled over on the side of the road with the car still running, jumping up and down with my hands on the hood like I was doing CPR. As I ran back around the half-open passenger door I laughed at myself, thinking that an image of me with grease on my hands, leaping into the air with Bach blasting from the car stereo is a pretty accurate representation of who I am.
Fast forward to the end of my day: I had left late for my return to Boston (are we detecting a theme here?) and nearly caught air on the speed bumps at the college as I sped into a parking spot outside the chapel for 9 pm mass. I left the bag with a church dress in the back of the car and again literally ran into the basement chapel (this time there were undergrads there to literally laugh at me). I was so late that, to the surprise of everyone, I wore my jeans to mass.
Jeans at mass is another post for another day, and it’s not something I am scrupulous about. I knew I wasn’t scandalizing anyone with my outfit, and I wasn’t scandalizing myself. My hair was in a ponytail and the morning’s makeup was long gone. Mass began.
In my relationship with liturgy familiarity hasn’t bred contempt, but it has bred the inconsistency of attention to which I think most churchgoers would own if they were honest. Sometimes it moves me, and sometimes it doesn’t. I am not self-centered enough to think that its efficacy hinges on my own emotional response. My attention drifted as I heard the readings for the second time this weekend: stories of Satan’s empty promises, human weakness, and God’s strength.
So much in the world seems there to deceive us, and so much of our lives is trying to find the reality behind the deception. Sometimes it feels as if the only guidance we get from Scripture is that things are not what they seem, which doesn’t necessarily help us read the signs of the times. When I hear people talk about prayer or their spiritual lives, that’s the thread I hear throughout our conversations: that we are looking for what is real, and that when we find that, we find God.
After the Sanctus I shuffled my New Balance-shod feet over to the side to get out of the way for the consecration. The presider held the bread aloft, then the wine. I have seen that done thousands of times. Tonight, bedraggled and exhausted, I truly saw. This is what is real: God in bread and wine.
I have enough sinful pride to worry that people are reading that and thinking I’m crazy, that I’m caught up in some ridiculous pious devotion, that I have finally gone off the deep end with my faith in things not seen. I can’t deny the truth: anything in my life that has been real has hinged on that. Divinity has offered itself so that humanity could be redeemed, simplicity has become synonymous with profundity, the earth has been transformed into heaven.
Back at my car after mass, the hood had popped up again, I was still fatigued, and I nearly ran over a cart full of supplies. One moment of clarity doesn’t change the rest of life. I will still be disoriented from time to time – either by the changing of the clocks or the changing of my life. I will still look around befuddledly, not knowing if what I’m seeing is truth or the emptiness I’ve been warned about. And I’ll continue to present myself at the altar regardless of attire or state of mind, not even hoping for inspiration but for transformation and Truth.