And the Child Cries
This happened in my local church, a couple of Sundays ago.
The small child began to fuss noisily in the pews just as the Consecration was about to begin. “Oh no,” I thought, “Not during the most solemn part of the Mass!” Then my heart went out to the baby’s parents, who were probably thinking the same thing.
Knowing deep down that the presence of babies and children is a true blessing in any Sunday service, I resolved not to fight against the noise. Irritation, frustration, even anger can build inside of me when things don’t go the way that I think they should, but I try to remember that getting what I like is not the point of my life. The true joy of my life is in receiving what God gives me.
What I like is silence at Mass when the priest repeats the words of Jesus at the Last Supper — “This is my body” — and we are, by the grace of God, connected to that very moment at Calvary when Christ’s body is lifted up on the Cross. Silence is indeed a blessing for this part of the Eucharistic Liturgy when it allows us to hear the voice of God speaking love, mercy, and redemption into our hearts. What I got that day was not silence, however, it was a fussy child’s whimpers and cries. So I had to remind myself again not to struggle to get what I think is right but to relax and be open to the will of God, and to listen for Him.
And that’s when I heard Him.
“This is my body,” the elderly priest said, barely audible over the noise of the baby, “Do this in memory of Me.” Then the priest elevated the host and, as the Body of Christ was lifted up above the altar, was lifted up on the Cross at Calvary, the little child, as though deeply suffering, cried out “Mama, help!”
I was done in. The child Jesus trips and falls and calls for his mother; the grown Jesus feels the searing pain of the nails in his limbs and looks down into the compassionate eyes of Mary. The Eternal Now, the happening of everything at once in God’s sense of time which is timelessness, and the interconnection of every human being in Jesus Christ never hit me with such clarity and reality as when that baby cried during Mass. We are all one, united together throughout time and space, beyond time and space, in the eternal bond of divine love.
Sometimes, it’s what we don’t like that is the real blessing — if we allow it.
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
© 2019 Christina Chase
Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash
Scripture quote Matthew 19:14, NAB
Christina Chase View All
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.
A true moment of Grace! Tha.nk you for sharing, Christina. WT
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You found the key: “…if we allow it.” I lose mine often, but I know it’s not completely lost.
. . . .
Nice of you to tell that story on yourself, Christina. It reminds me of many moments at a Russian Orthodox church nearby. The big difference in this situation is that there are no pews, only benches along the side walls and a row of chairs against the back wall, mostly used by the older members, so families with children simply stand during the Liturgy–except that often they, as well as other church goers, since it is hard to stand at attention for more than an hour, move around, either to light candles or venerate icons (both of which the children like to do, even those carried in arms). The overall effect on the atmosphere is a striking mixture of great reverence and the kind of informality that characterizes an extended family dinner. At first I was puzzled, then distracted, and occasionally irritated. Now I pretty much see it the way you did at that one moment. So it meant a lot to me to read your account. Thanks for staying disciplined about your writing! It stirs memories and understandings in all of us.
“The truth will set you free” — I strive to always be honest, even to the point of telling on myself, as you put it. 🙂 We recognize each other by our wounds.
The truth is that I am happy and pleasantly relieved when I see or hear children at Mass, because they give vital life to the Church. But we’ve all struggled to hear a reading, prayer, or homily because of a noisy child at one time or another, And many times I have felt the irritation of those behind me who think that children should always be perfectly behaved. (It was mostly for them that I wrote this moment down.) I confess to desiring silence at the Consecration — no coughing, crying, sirens, or cell phones. Distractions can be overcome, of course, and we can “tune out” the noise and maybe grow stronger in our ability to focus. Sometimes, however, the noise isn’t noise. An ambulance is on its way to someone who is in danger: that someone is Christ. An old man can’t shake his persistent cough: that old man is Christ. A distraught daughter far away at college is trying to get in touch with her dad on his cell phone: she is Christ. We gather to pray with Him and receive Him and then share Him.
Christ did not live or die in a vacuum of perfect holiness. He lived and died with us. The picture of the Russian Orthodox Liturgy that you shared is quite striking. And yes, I admit, I am very puzzled! Those who seek will find, however, and I imagine it’s a joy to grow up in and with services like that!
Thank you for pulling “…if we allow it” out of my reflection as the key. There’s the openness, the willingness to be challenged and suprised, the surrender of the finite to the Infinite — only to find the Infinite within the finite. God bless the child!
Thank you, Albert, as always, for reflecting with me!
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