This is a side altar.
A couple of days later I awoke early, so I attended the 8 a.m. Service of Holy Eucharist. This time the student cassocks were black, and the faint aroma of incense filled the air. Something happened to me during that service that I cannot explain.
The presence of God was very real to me, as I again decided to largely forgo the prayer book, except for when the friendly young priest seated behind me helped me out. The mostly male voices singing the Kyrie were so beautiful that tears came to my eyes. And the tears stayed. I found myself quietly weeping through much of the service, and when the elements of bread and wine were blessed I felt a deep sense of wonder. I assumed that I would not be welcome to partake, and a great longing arose in my heart. I was pondering, "Do I just go up anyway, do I stand here and weep and watch others, do I....?" Then the friendly young priest behind me asked if I wanted to share in the eucharist, and when I wondered if it would be acceptable, he asked, "Are you a baptized Christian?" That was it. Such relief....I wondered why it was that I particularly wanted to share the bread and cup on this morning.
I liked the beauty of my surroundings, the reverence, the cassocks and the vestments, the pipe organ, the bell, the chanting, and even the sense of continuity and pattern. I didn't like the division of the chapel (which felt to me like a fence keeping us separated from the seminarians and the priests), the difficulty with knowing what was next, and trying to find the pages fast enough, the awareness that nothing but nothing would alter the form of the service. Even God? Was there room for the Holy Spirit to do something unexpected? I wondered how I would feel if I had never been to church before. Totally confused, wondering what what happening...Still...the presence of God was with me.
At the close of the service, the professors, priests and seminarians processed out, as before. Everyone left. Except me. I sat in the darkened little chapel and the tears fell, and I wondered why.