Last Sunday, I ventured to a Christmas Carol mass at The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr. A nighttime service. Instinctively, as I pulled into the parking lot surrounded by old stone buildings – a soft light pouring through the stain glass windows – my spine straightened; preconditioned from years spent going to services like these and attending Catholic school as a child. Growing up my church didn’t have a robust choir nor singing with any real joy behind it, making this service especially appealing. Of course, along with the fact, that my coworker, Roger, was singing as tenor in the same choir he had been singing in for over 15 years.
In pairs, people shuffled to the church entrance making sure to keep conversations below a whisper. Orderly reverence permeated the air as I walked through the vestibule inhaling incense searching for Roger amidst a crowd of long white gowns with red collars. It wasn’t until I got situated in my pew that I saw him there standing beside a proud girl of about ten with blonde girls. When he waved and smiled at me little goosebumps appeared while my hand clasped for my necklace – the one given to me after Nana passed. In this moment, I felt her with me, smiling, happy I’d finally listened – go to mass, attend the dances for young people and meet a nice, Irish Catholic. And here I was, attending. I also brought to mind my Grams who I had called to tell I’d be praying for her tonight at this service. It felt good to pray for Grams in this tradition as I’ve depended on many of her novenas in the past.
I flipped through the program in my hand listing nine rounds of scripture readings accompanied by carols. I situated into the silence shifting my weight marveling at the cathedral ceilings and detailed trimmings. It was self-evident a considerable amount of labor, sacrifice and time was invested in the construction of this building – this place of worship – that had lasted through many storms and seasons. The entire church filled with families, couples and individuals all gathering in shared solitude. A rare and welcomed state of being, of peace. Inside something clicked; this must be why my parents still go religiously to mass, not so much to hear and debate the validity of scripture, but rather to be inside a scared space quietly in reflection among others. Then the choir began cascading down upon us with such harmonious ripples of sound that I truly felt lifted on angels’ wings.
A Warrior Princess