Had an odd, and quite wonderful, experience earlier today. With our rector on vacation, one of the other priests closely associated with our parish filled in @ daily mass for the Feast of Mary Magdalene
. Normally we have a few communicants for our mid-day low mass on weekdays, but it just so happened that today nobody showed up. Just me, the priest and our faithful altar server, Walt. However, that didn't stop the priest from pulling out all the stops -- we broke out the gold vestments, I vested and read the gospel, Walt loaded the thurible and incense bellowed in the empty (to the naked eye, that is) church. We said the confiteor, we dutifully followed the choreography of the mass (allowing for a few unorthodox steps, given our unfamiliar configuration), Fr. Conner censed the altar and the elements and then preached a full sermon (w/ insights I'd give my left arm to be able to preach myself, to be honest), and the whole thing had about it a sense of, I don't know, joy
. Just unmitigated joy in performing our appointed tasks in worshiping God. And nobody else was there.
It was, as Fr. Conner noted in his sermon (did I mention I covet his ability to preach like that?), "foolish adoration." It's what history as far back as Hippolytus has ascribed to Mary Magdalene, identifying her w/ the woman in Luke's gospel who was so moved in Jesus' presence that she wiped her tears from his feet w/ her hair and anointed his feet w/ oil. ( Luke 7:36-50
). Such adoration is, indeed, often seen as foolish to the eyes of the world, but it's what Fr. C said "happens all the time in heaven." Our acts today wouldn't make much sense in many of the buildings surrounding our church in Washington, DC, because there were so few people there, our church was literally "burning" our resources (the olfactory ones @ least), two thirds of the worshipers were literally paid
to be there. But, like Mary's tenderness toward Jesus, it's foolish adoration that is the true calling of the church, really of the whole creation. When pragmatism may say "Just rein it in a bit, after all it's only three guys in the church," or "Get out there in the business world and create something, for Christ's sake, don't just sit around in a church praying," the foolish adoration compelled by the gospel says "Be lavish, offer your finest efforts in the Holy Liturgy, go all out b/c this Jesus, whose feet Mary Magdalene's hair may have once caressed, was lavish in his love for us, gave his finest efforts to redeem us, went all out to see us mended."
Foolish adoration. It's what goes on in heaven all the time.