I won’t go into all the reasons as to why I’d stayed away. Suffice it to say, the Church had always been my sanctuary from the world and then, last year, the world invaded my sanctuary. And so, befuddled and incensed, I stayed away.
The reason I returned was simple. The Church was finally pushing the world out and becoming a sanctuary again.
The first couple of times back, I did not receive communion. I had some unfinished rubbish on my soul that needed to be cleaned up in confession before I would dare approach Our Lord. But I wanted to be, at least, near Him again.
Each week brought more smiling faces back to the pews. There was much excited waving and enthusiastic “Good to see you’s” being exchanged. It was like we were all waking up from some social dystopian hibernation and all finally realizing the truth behind God’s words in the Book of Genesis. “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
I made it to confession and so was finally able to receive communion my third week back. I could feel an electricity in the air as I anticipated the empty little tabernacle of my soul finally being filled again with the true presence of Jesus. Of course, it could have been the thunderstorm raging outside, but I prefer to think it was anticipatory energy.
The Mass was as normal as any Mass can be, bridging our world and heaven. And then, just after the transubstantiation, there was a loud clap of thunder and the lights went out. For thirty seconds, I could see nothing in the lightless church but Our Lord, illuminated on the altar by candlelight. There was but a moment when it was just Him and me, the world having melted away into the darkness around us
“You’ve been away,” he said.
“I know. I’m sorry,” I said. “I had some things I had to work through.”
“It’s nice to have you back,” he said.
With that, the lights flickered and came back on.
The walk to the altar was one of great earnestness. I knelt before the priest who held up Our Lord under the guise of bread before me and then solemnly placed Him on my tongue.
Over the year, I had lost all faith in every earthly human institution and, also, most humans. As I weathered storm after storm on the sea of my life, I realized I wasn’t going to drown in it all because I was tethered to something. It was Our Lord and I knew if I could keep my gaze fixed on Him, I wouldn’t sink.
Now back at Mass, as I walked towards the rear of the church to my seat, I saw a vision of the Christ before me. I stood there a moment in awe of the heavenly apparition, until I realized it was just a reflection in the glass windows of the crucifix behind the altar. I smiled, feeling the burning sensation I get in my chest after each time I receive communion.
“It’s nice to be back,” I said and continued on to my seat.