Preparing for Mass is a wonderful thing, full of anticipation. I look forward to walking beneath dawn’s pinkish light, feeling the chill morning air and hearing bells announce the beginning of yet another day. However, some things I do not look forward to. There comes a time when the teacher must rebuke, when the shepherd must goad his sheep…better now than too late it seems.
When I arrive, rapt in silent reverence to pray the holy liturgy, I notice some others do not share the same view. Some talk loudly on the steps, waiting till the last minute to come worship, others wander the transept as if having nothing else to do, and yet others arrive at holy Mass dressed more fitly for the taverns!
Holy as I strive to be, I am still a man and not immune to carnal distraction. I will without fail notice when a woman approaches with her shoulders and neck exposed. At times, I feel glad that I face away during the most-holy consecration, that I cannot see bands of pale flesh when my mind should be on hallowed things! Shame on you who consider not clothing your daughters in modesty! And shame too, on you young men who present yourselves with wrinkled cuffs, messed hair, smelling of cigar smoke! It is not my duty to lay your dress out for you but if it were, I would teach a lesson in appropriate reverence!
Elder ladies, I look upon you with dignity and respect. Your hair, greyed with wisdom, is a token for us all. But, some of you too have acted shamefully, gathering before the sanctuary after Mass to chatter and improvise daily plans. Have you no parlor or den to gather in? The sacred place isn’t for gathering but for adoration. You rich, you sneer at the poor who behave crudely then proceed to discuss hunting and cards in front of the altar rail! Go elsewhere with it all!
Oh you florists and craftsmen, I admire your works but please do not sell them here! You eloquent speakers and idealists are dear to my heart but find a more suitable place to reveal your dreams. You gentlemen, who wear long coats, feathered hats and medals, can you cross the threshold before donning this finery?
Thus it is written: “You shall worship God with reverence and godly fear for he is a consuming fire.” Even Moses, the greatest forefather, needed to remove his shoes when approaching hallowed ground.
When you gather, be ever mindful that this place is unearthly, be mindful of the lamp of God’s presence, keep prayerful; stay silent. Sing with the harp of your voices at the entering antiphon, speak solely pure words here and only embrace your neighbor at the sign of peace.
“We will go into his tabernacle: We will adore in the place where his feet stood.” (Psalm 132:7) Amen.