Sunday Evening Mass

December 3, 2012
The creek of old birch wood snapped my consciousness back into the present. I was sitting on the most uncomfortable bench in the world. That is no understatement. Benches have been crafted of jagged stone or covered in sharp metal. But there was something comforting about pain. At least it was something. The bench I graced with my youth was the simplest type of remorse; two slabs of wood nailed together at a one hundred degree angle. Human vertebrae align in a so-to-speak S shape. That pew was the essence of rigidity. And from that such a conflict was derived. That is the very reason I dreaded the seat more than all others. It represented a void in emotion. It was none but dull, persistent displeasure. No amount of varnish or re-varnish would hide its age.

I don’t blame my brother, therefore, for his own unrest. My mother should not have blamed me, therefore, for my absence. But I was absent. No matter how much occurrence, no amount of movement or singing or chanting or stretching would catch my interest. There needed to be a more effective way of involving me, but modern science has yet to prove itself worthy in my eyes. It seems strange how distant one can become despite a millimeter distance between him and his neighbors. Supposedly one goal of long pews was to achieve a sense of community. But one would sooner make my eyes fall out from my face by shoving me against a brick wall than have me become its family. And so was the case with my actual family.

Anyone who knows me or knew me and has since passed would be familiar with the notion that I lack focus. Focus and or drive, as my school report cards often read. I believe it to be my eyes’ fault. If nothing else, I should not be permitted to gaze long distances. Even if that was taken away from me, though, the spectrum of infinity is still two-sided. So I would just delve deeper and deeper into the very stitches which hold my jeans together. It is a curse to be human but to also appreciate your own scale compared to the universe. As soon as I realized this, everything lost importance. And I was left debating my place in the world.

Past experience aside, I did my best to stay aware in Saint Mary’s Church. My best is not a proud right to boast. It was Sunday evening. An unnameable presence loomed in the back of my mind. It weighed my shoulders down slightly too. Perhaps this was the feeling of one week catching up to me. Or perhaps it was a transition to the next. I imagine many people sitting in church believed it to be the presence of God. They may very well have been right. My attention span did not allow me to see faith for what was. Odd despite my constant observation of grandeur, I managed to look past God.

My mother said I better pay attention during mass. She also told me I was going about Catholicism all wrong. But how had I even become catholic in the first place? I never agreed to this arrangement. There were no contracts for me to sign at age one which permitted baptism in the first place. So I suppose like anyone unwillingly drafted into something, my effort was invested in the wrong place.

My aunt did not say the same things as my mother, however. I only recall her saying that “Divinity” is all around, and most people just don’t realize when it is a part of their lives.

Evening sun beams shone through colorful stain glass. While waiting for a divine intervention, I entertained my boredom with visual stimulation. My best tools were my thoughts and my vision. Half of Jesus’s face on the cross was in shadows. I stared intimately at his body. I was struck by his ribcage above most of him, for some reason. That was where he looked weakest to me; right under his sternum. The figure of Christ on the Cross was one I never talked about. This was simply due to lack of understanding. I had not the proper teaching to know what it meant. All I knew was some unspoken reverence. There high above an altar was Christianity’s Savior, and even I was aware of my place to question it. So I stared for as brief a period of time as possible and apologized in my head repeatedly afterwards.

The mass that evening was dull; dull as all masses prior. Part of me listened. Or rather, part of me allowed the priests words to fly into my ears, and dissipate quickly in my hollow skull. But I mostly thought about other things, totally separate from the church. The way the sun was spreading across the horizon peaked my interest. Everything outside that window was exponentially more interesting than Saul. The story of Saul seemed unbelievable. This story bothered me most. There was something so defiantly unnatural about the changing of Saul into Paul. The Bible was really reaching in this instance. I wasn’t sure if it was due laziness or unimaginative writing. Then again, these stories are suspected true by many a Christian. How much room was left for imagination while writing the Bible?

Was that red tome the priest held a Bible? Maybe it was just a sort of cheat sheet. As if after hundreds of masses he still mixed up the order of certain prayers. At this moment in the ceremony, he dragged his green robe and heavy feet over to the altar, and there placed his Mass: How To guide. But I noticed a strange quirk of his. He would often twitch his right hand violently. As he lectured on endlessly (I suppose they’ve labeled it a homily), he passed back and forth from that altar many times.

The sun had completely set, and now it was as if the outside world I was so previously distracted by had almost vanished. For a minute or two I came to grips with the event. I tried desperately to harness my telekinesis. The sun would rise again, yes it would. Up and over our pointless lives, back down into Asia; where I had never been. I would make the vision a reality. I must.

Whenever the mass mentioned a spilt between two brothers, I turned next to me. It was a fun game to play in my mind. Which one of us would be who? My brother was always favored over me. My parents didn’t hide it well. Regardless, it’s inhuman not to have favorites, so is the same for children –no matter how hard the decision to make. Had our cable’s age-restrictions not been locked with the pass code 0304 –my brother’s date of birth—maybe I could have told myself we were equally loved.

He always took pride in dressing up for church. He wore a blazer and tie, and khakis which once had belonged in my very own dresser. I had given up. I wore jeans and a decent shirt. My parents favoring of him was warranted. But what role did that assign him? Was he the loyal brother? The one who stayed and worked. The one who earned his right in a family. That would make me the drunk. I would be the one to run off and sin and find myself in a prison cell. I suppose that was more likely. But somehow the unrighteous path was rewarded too. In my father’s heart there would be more eagerness to love an outcast than the son who remained by his side. The story was an unrealistic one. No one loved like that. My father would probably find it difficult to welcome me back; truthfully. Any man indistinguishable from pigs in a sty might find redemption a difficult dream to obtain.

“Amen,” and with it came the thud of ancient pages meeting again. I use the term ancient relatively, I was eight at the time. The priest could have very well been nine hundred years old to me, and his red tome no-less one thousand years. I marveled at a centurial grace unparalleled by anything else in my life. Such as the delicacy of life, I imagined a gust of wind turning the priest’s corpse into powdered dust and sweeping him to Thy Kingdom Come. Unrelenting stress must have been pushing him closer to the earth year after year, but like any holy man, his spirit only rose.

In a moment of passion I could not look away from the ceremony. My gaze was intent upon the beautiful splitting of Eucharist. However I only slightly managed to stumble my way through the according prayers. The whole time I watched carefully, all until he had another spasm. This one was worse than the others. It was catastrophic in comparison. His body fell from grace. It turned on him, even! Like some sort of possession he lost control and swung forth his arm, knocking over a tall, white candle. The candle of Babel crashed down on the Red Carpet Sea. And it caught. The whole thing caught fire. The heat rippled out to engulf the whole church. A man in a tuxedo grabbed the Father by the shoulders and led him outside. My mother did the same with us.

I watched that night as our entire Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church became ash. I watched as my mother went from sheer hysteria to complete brokenness. It was more beautiful than the mass, I thought. It was meant to be a spectacle. It must have been. My dad massaged her shoulders to a near-liquid state, but she was still crying. My brother may have thought poorly of me, but I almost laughed. In the commotion of the night, now totally dark, I looked at my smoldering church, and nearly laughed. But I don’t apologize for this. The fire was quenched. Enough money was raised to construct a new church. No one had been injured. I refuse to feel guilt for laughing, because in the mist of sacred embers I could vividly make out the statue of Christ, still on his cross; supported by one last standing stud. And this sight was the sight I had been searching for.

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