Dancing Hands At Catholic Mass
Today I went to afternoon mass with a Catholic friend. It was quarter of an hour past noon, and St Francis' church was three quarters full. We stood for the opening prayer, then in the middle of the prayer we all said amen and the priest said "Now we will pray" even though we had just been praying.
Later we said the Lord's Prayer (the only one I knew by heart), but when they got to the part that starts "...for thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, Forever and Ever, Amen", the priest just interrupted the prayer to put in his own words, and as we never got to say that end bit I murmured it under my breath so that the prayer should be complete. All inexplicable.
More standing and sitting, apparently without purpose, pattern, or signal.
Mumbled responses. I grew quiet and relaxed inside, but outwardly remained watchful among the papists lest some flimflammery ambush.
The sense of the vast range of inappropriate behaviors possible in such a narrow social millieu beckoned my imagination. I thought of the uptight spiritual folk I knew, men and women who rather than communion need to take a full emotional and intellectual enema and forgive themselves for having funny animal bodies. I thought of my desire for vengeance and my wish for freedom.
I thought of the good people around me doing piety with their lips and knees and holding their bodies so firmly on the spot. I watched all this and as I did became aware of the Presence of God in my heart, loving me and shining like a star. And I felt as if I was the only man with sight among the blind, until I saw that the Presence was also with the priest.
When I watched the priest's hands and ignored his lips he was nice. The hands spoke so much more sincerely and lovingly than the lips; they formed delicate mudras like a baby gesturing before its Mother's Nipple. The priest wasn't just going through the motions; he was being a good shepherd, so to speak, for his sheep. His shapely little white hands danced over the altar like the rememberancer of a lost sensuality, an Eden concealed behind the turbulent rivers of tradition, convention, pretension and pomp.
We left at communion. We had no desire to taste the wine overly fortified with spirits that they served.