I do, I said.
I recited the words this morning at Easter Mass.
Do you renounce Satan?
I do, the other congregants and I said in unison.
And then we said it again.
After each question, we affirmed our faith in God, the Holy Spirit, in Jesus Christ, his only son and our savior.
With each I do, I wanted to yell NO SHIT! God forgive me, I know the priest is just the messenger, but Jesus Christ, of course, I believe in God. I am standing in a church, with nary a seat left, that resembles its parking lot where crafty Catholics made their own spots this morning. The church was so packed that even before the first reading the ushers gave up trying to find parishioners a place to seat. I was ok with standing. I didn’t deserve a seat. I wasn’t a regular. I am a heathen. A few years ago the priest pointed that out when I and some fellow heathens responded with the wrong affirmations. It’s a great public relations strategy: Castigate those who are alienated. That’s totally what Christ did! He damned the lepers and prostitutes. He condemned the liars and sinners. Totally makes sense to take those who come to church a few times a year and humiliate them. Really, don’t make them feel welcome. I get it, why bother, especially with me, I am a two-time divorcee whose forbidden from receiving communion.
Every time I go to mass I ask myself why I went.
Today, I know part of the reason has to do with my love of the Resurrection. Palm Sunday was always my favorite liturgy. When we were kids we were told Easter was more important than Christmas, because it was through Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven that we are saved. I didn’t feel like I was saved this morning. Then again, I’m not sure I need to be rescued. What I do know, is that I go back to the Catholic church, wanting my experience to be different, wanting to get more out of it, but the constraints of dogma and doctrine limit me. I walk away feeling like I obliged, begrudgingly.
I spoke with my Aunt Karen earlier this year and she shared with me her journey to find a church, where she felt present and connected. She and my Uncle Rod moved to Arizona a few years back and she is still searching for a spiritual home. I respect her determination to find a new place to worship. I too want to find a new spiritual home, but I have yet to fully exit my Catholic home.
Maybe I’m not compelled to attend mass every Sunday because I don’t miss God? God’s not why I go to church anyway. God is present in my life every moment of every day. I know that to be true. What I yearn for when I go to church is a shared faith experience with the congregation. And, I don’t seem to find that. What troubles me is why? Am I closed off, or am I seeking something that is not possible if the other congregants are only there out of obligation? The obligation is subordinate in my reasons to attend church. It’s my desire to stand among fellow men and women and to listen to scripture and to the homily and reflect on God’s presence in our lives. God’s physical presence is found in the Eucharist, which again I am no longer supposed to receive. So I don’t. And I think that is part of the reason why I feel empty instead of fulfilled after attending mass.
That said, I did exactly what the priest said I wasn’t supposed to do. “Easters not about eggs and candy,” he said. I picked up my daughter after mass, brought her home, and hid her Easter basket. We played hot, warm, and cold and she found her basket in the oven. I don’t recall ever using the oven before, but Bridget told me I did about six years ago. We picked up the eggs from the basket, examined their colors, and talked about the dyes and how this morning they looked very different from what we intended. We were ok with that. We took some pictures of the eggs and the candy-filled basket, and then rolled and peeled the eggs.
Readying the eggs for Bridget’s consumption, I realized that don’t need a church to see God’s love. I didn’t need to say “I do” to tell the world the that God is present in my life. He’s in my kitchen, in my dining room, present when I am dying eggs, when I silently pray as I sort through bills, when Bridget and I play Scrabble, or when I vacuum or dust. I see God’s greatest gift, the gift of life, in my daughter every moment of every day.
Maybe that’s the illusion that I am struggling with. Going to church intent on being fulfilled, yet because I love and am loved, I already am.
“I do” wish you a very Happy Easter, and in whatever form you celebrate it be sure to enjoy it!