From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spirituality: Where it stops

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Oct. 4, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

Recently while out shopping with some friends for their son’s birthday party, I found myself with them in the toy department of a large store. My friends seemed overwhelmed by all the possibilities which were packed into the aisles. While they struggled with their dilemma, I meandered about. My explorations delightfully led me to an old game we used to play with the neighborhood kids. It was still in vogue (well, at least somewhat!). Tucked away in a almost hidden corner I found a top for sale. Yes, a good, old-fashioned top!

We kids used to spend hours playing Spin the Top. The idea was to wind it up and let it whirl its way around the circle of players. We decided as a group before hand that the person before whom it stopped and pointed its tail had to do something silly. Sing a song, dance, stand on their head — or eat an ant! Of course there was always an element of excitement in the game because the top never followed the same path twice nor stopped in the exact same place. In a sense it was always on the go.

The memory of my little excursion to the toy department must have still been fresh in my mind the next day as we began Tuesday morning Mass. The servers and I began Mass in the usual manner, following the processional cross down the aisle to the altar. The bearer placed it in its usual stand; we bowed and all went to our places, continuing the ritual of the Mass. Nothing different here. The same ritual in the same place for ever since the church building had been constructed, decades ago.

The ritual itself that Tuesday morning was without particular note. The events of the day, however, had already numbed our minds. The horrendous crimes against humanity in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania had already begun to change our lives in unknown and lasting ways. Perhaps at Mass that day — and in days since — waves of stunned bewilderment, anger and frustration have pushed aside normal feelings of piety and devotion. Anger churned long enough in the human heart leads to desires for vengeance and retribution.

A liturgical purist may argue that the congregation follows the processional cross and wherever it stops, there is where the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord is to be celebrated. In that sense should the cross bearer veer out the church doors and stop in the corner of the parking lot, there is where the Lord has led us and there is where we stop to pray. Of course, such liturgical absurdities do not happen — but “following” the processional cross during these days of national tragedy certainly must give us pause. Technically, the entire congregation should gather at the doors of the church and then follow the cross-led procession into the place of worship, signify boldly that those who participate in the Mass follow the Crucified Savior as the source of our salvation. Our gathering would witness more clearly then that he is the One who is master of history and Lord of life. We, his disciples, follow; we do not merely gather.

And disciples we remain — even unto this day. We are learners, seeking to know the ways of the Kingdom. The beginning procession at Mass ritually manifests our stance before the Lord. Wherever we are — in whatever circumstances we find ourselves — wherever the Cross stops — there is where we enter into the mystery of Gospel life. There is where the cadence of the Christian walk beckons our attitudes and actions. Such a lifestyle of discipleship is always a bit of a mystery because life keeps changing. Events happen — sometimes horribly senseless and tragic events that seek to play at our hearts and emotions with their unique sets of values and answers.

The Cross of Jesus is planted in new territory for us now. What does it mean to follow the Savior in this situation? What does he mean, “Turn the other cheek”? How is justice pursued with love in these circumstances? The dastardly acts of terrorism which have befallen our nation tempt us to veer off our Christian course, but that course we must stay if we are to preserve our dignity as sons and daughters of God.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish, Spokane.)

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