I woke up Sunday intending to go to the early Mass at my church. I incorrectly remembered the starting time and got there 30 minutes before its scheduled start. As I was looking around a near empty church, I noticed something that has been there the entire time I’ve belonged to the parish, yet it was like I was seeing it for the first time.
The worship space in my church is an open circle with the altar in the center and pews around it. There is a separate room off to the side that contains the tabernacle. If I sit in a particular section of the worship space, I can see the tabernacle through the glass doors, unless there are too many tall people sitting in the section between. As I gazed over to the tabernacle, I realized the baptismal font was running. This is not unusual as the water is usually circulated before and after Mass. The location of the font happens to be between my usual seat and the tabernacle. What a wonderful sense of physical illustration: we need to be baptized in order to have a relationship with God and fully participate in the Catholic life. We need to make a choice to live our baptismal promises every day in order to get to heaven. As the tabernacle contains the consecrated hosts, it is the closest thing to heaven we have on earth. I also noticed that the crucifix that is carried into the worship space at the beginning of Mass was in its stand just beyond the baptismal font. From my direction, it was as if the church was saying you need to be baptized, pick up your cross and carry it through to heaven (the tabernacle).
I’ve sat in that general area many times before for Mass, and I never realized how all those items aligned. Churches have been built to raise the awareness of the parishioners and to teach them specifics of the faith. Many of the stain-glass windows are intended to teach about the life of Jesus or of a saint. Some churches are built in the shape of a cross, so that at the very heart of worship, the congregation takes the shape of salvation. When we attend Mass, are we aware of how our surroundings lift us up in worship? Many of us are creatures of habit, sitting in the same area week after week at the same Mass, but why is that location special to you? Can you describe why you chose that spot, or did it choose you? I choose to sit in the section I do because I can get at least a glimpse of the tabernacle. With people sitting in the next section, I don’t always get a complete and unobscured view like I did when I was early. Perhaps the other sections of the church would prompt different thoughts for reflection if I sat in them.
While the most important element is to be wholly present during the Mass and for the Eucharist, where you choose or end up sitting may add significance as you open your heart and mind to the Holy Spirit and let Him reveal Himself to you.