Jennifer’s recent post about those moments in life that have “the smell and flavor of God” reminded me of something I’ve often observed but have never quite understood: the surprising number of people who cry during the Mass.
When my husband and I first started attending Catholic Sunday services, I was perplexed by the fact that I usually walked out of the building wiping tears from my eyes. It was the strangest thing. At the time the ceremony was held in a nondescript building constructed in the 1980’s, the choir was small and sang pleasant but not particularly stunning hymns, the homilies were thought-provoking but not designed to stir up emotions, and I wasn’t even convinced that the body and blood of Christ were actually made present in what looked to me like bread and wine. And yet, sometime around the consecration (what I called at the time, “that part after the priest talks where we kneel”) I would feel the familiar yet unexpected sting of tears in my eyes, almost every time.
One day I looked up to glance at the people around me, half expecting to see people pointing and snickering at the crazy emotional girl who was crying for no reason. To my surprise, I noticed that at least two or three of the people kneeling near me were crying as well.
Ever since then I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how many people you see wiping their eyes right before and after they receive the Eucharist. There have been times when it seems like almost everyone is in tears. (And this is just from limited glances as I get in and out of the pew to go up for communion! …For the record, I don’t make an effort to stare at other people to see what their emotional emotional state is at this time). 🙂
I’m really not quite sure what to make of it, especially that it used to happen to me before I even believed in the Real Presence. My best guess, of course, is that it’s simply the Holy Spirit at work. Although I may be missing something since I’m not a cradle Catholic, perhaps the Mass has an emotional significance to people who have been Catholic all their lives that I wouldn’t understand. Also, I’ve only been to Mass at a few Catholic churches, so I can’t speak to whether this is a common occurrence.
I don’t exactly have a “take” here, I mainly just wanted to throw out this observation and see what others think. Does this happen at your parish as well? Why do you think so many people — even, as in my case, the occasional agnostic — are moved to tears by what is on the surface a rather unemotional ceremony?
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