So on Saturday I attended the vigil Mass at St. Ignatius Parish on Park Avenue. I cannot begin to extol the glory of this liturgy: the music was sublime, the homily was gorgeous, and the congregation really seemed to invest themselves in the three-hour service. Making it all the more beautiful was reception of 23 women and men into the Roman Catholic Church with my good friend, Jane Dryden, numbered amongst them.
Beneath the pomp and majesty celebrating the Risen Lord, below the fanfare and joyful singing that reached skyward, under it all there was one thing amiss, one radical deficiency that kept me from having a transcendental experience of prayer.
Violated rubrics? No. Twelve gorillas carrying up the gifts? Nope. Liberace singing the Exultet? Not even close.
So what was it?
Well, at the beginning of the vigil the church's lights are shut off and we stand in the dark. Engulfed by still blackness, the clutch of darkness is to be shattered by the lighting of the fire. Hands clasped in prayer, my eyes strained through the inky stillness to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-erupt fire, hoping to see the transformation of the church as the blazing fire illumined those surrounding it.
And so as I prayed, as I recalled the graces of this Lent, as I thanked God for the ways I had grown closer to Christ it was not my eyes that were met with irruptive presence.
Nope. It was my ears, and then my nose.
The little kid sitting directly behind me began barfing his brains out just moments after the lights went out.
Now, this is terrible on several accounts. First, the kid is heaving up his McDonald's Happy Meal onto the floor. Second, it's deadly silent in the church, so everyone can hear it. Third, where do you go? You just can't rush out of the middle of the pew carrying the kid as though he were an accessory, a Puking Purse if you will.
Perhaps the worst part of it all: you can't see ANYTHING!!
Do you know how terrifying it is to have someone heaving his guts out directly behind you and all you know is that it SOUNDS really close and that it SMELLS even closer? I was bloody terrified to kneel down lest the tips of my newly-shined shoes should encounter a putrefied pile of Chicken McNuggets. Having worked in a summer camp for seven summers, I know the sounds of the body and I reckoned this kid's spew to be equal parts solid and liquid, which means that the chunky islands would be surrounded by a capricious sea of Mc Milk Shake.
So as we lit our candles one off of another, I did what any self-respecting Christian in my position would do: I peered behind me to see if I was in any danger of stepping/kneeling/or in any other way coming into contact with Easter greeting lurking behind me.
Lesson: barf looks scarier when illuminated by a candle than it does when the lights are on.
Thus was the beginning of the vigil. In reality, this whole affair occupied but ten minutes of the three-hour liturgy but I thought a little levity wouldn't hurt the ol' blog.