My husband and I went to Vigil Mass last night (sans kids again since we were heading out for a date night). My husband has been into sitting in one of the first few pews lately, so as we dashed in the building before the opening hymn began I followed him up to the very front. To my surprise, he walked past three empty pews to squeeze into the second pew from the front, finding a space just big enough for the two of us in between a religious sister who works with our parish and one of the lay missionary families.
As much as I respected his desire to be as close as possible to the presence of Christ, I grumbled a whisper (undoubtedly interrupting the prayer of those around us) that I didn’t see why we couldn’t have sat in one of the empty pews right behind us.
“What’s the difference?” he whispered back. “This way we’re a little closer.”
“I just like to have plenty of room…for when we kneel…and pray, ” I lied. Feeling a twinge of guilt for starting out the Mass with a lie, I fessed up, “OK, look. If we sat in one of those pews back there we wouldn’t have to give anyone the sign of peace. Look at all these people here! This is going to be chaos!” [Regular readers know that I’m too socially inept to handle complicated rituals like the sign of peace.]
Evidently my husband had some motivations to come clean about as well. As it turns out, his desire to sit up front was not born entirely of a yearning to be as close as possible to the Real Presence. “Well I want to sit where the fewest people will drink from the chalice before us, ” he said. “It’s just gross, you know, having a bunch of other people’s lips touch it before we do.”
“WHAT?” I said loudly enough to startle a woman praying the rosary in front of us. “Is that why you’re so into sitting up front lately?”
He gave a kind of vague answer about there being a lot of factors, that he did like to sit closer for other reasons, but that, hey, it is great if you can be one of the first people to drink from the chalice. Luckily the opening hymn began and saved us from delving any further into this conversation.
Ah, yes. You want to make sure that before you receive the Blood of Christ that was poured out for your sins, that not too many of the unwashed masses get to it before you do. Talk about missing the point! What you need to be focusing on at Mass is sitting in an area where you can ignore the maximum number of your fellow parishioners (otherwise known as the Mystical Body of Christ).
When I was first looking into religion I had this idea that church was for very holy people, a place where they could grow even deeper in their holiness and become even more Christ-like. Then I realized that church is for sinners, a place for wretched people to throw themselves before God and beg for his mercy. On this matter, I present to you Exhibits A and B.
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