I’ve been to mass twice in my life. Once was in middle school. I was super excited about the font and over-blessed myself, and then was slightly bummed when I couldn’t take communion. I didn’t understand all the rituals, and the monotone priest/congregation recitations left me trying to find the most exciting passages in Song of Solomon to pass the time.
Last Sunday, after a homemade breakfast of healthy chocolate/banana pancakes lovingly thrown together by my dear friend Amy,
I celebrated Easter by attending mass for the second time in my life. It was a small church, and the two of us were the only Westerners.
The rituals were similar: singing, recitations, stand up, sit down, kneel, pray.
I was just as confused during the Chinese mass as I was in the English one, though not nearly as bored.
Amy would quietly turn to me and explain what we were doing. I finally whispered, “Don’t worry about me. Enjoy the service.”
I meant it. She had nothing to worry about; I was enjoying taking it all in.
It wasn’t so much a religious experience for me as it was a cultural experience. An Indiana-born, Texas-raised non-denominational Christian visiting a Catholic church, led in Mandarin by a Filipino priest, in the middle of Hsinchu, Taiwan, a predominantly Buddhist country.
There are times in my life when I realize just how intensely different my path is from most people I know. This was one of them.
No matter the religion, being surrounded by people of steadfast faith invigorates me. When I visited Longshan Temple in Taipei, it was during a daily ceremony in which people chant, light candles and incense, and pray. Seven years ago in the Dominican Republic, while at a friend’s house for dinner, I heard a hymn being sung in Spanish. I explored the run-down community until I found a small gathering of worshipers passionately singing and dancing. While the people at Longshan kept quietly to themselves, the people in Santo Domingo greeted me with big smiles and encouraged me to join them. Two very different experiences, both of which made my faith blossom.
On Sunday the priest walked down the aisle, dipping a long-stemmed serving spoon into holy water and flinging the droplets on the parishioners. When I felt the drops land on my face and arms, I looked at Amy. “I’ve been blessed!”
After mass, we ate a light lunch with other members of the church,
then looked around the grounds.
The weather, always humid, was warming up, and my black tights, jean skirt and heels (psh, flats with a lift) were beginning to make me uncomfortable, so Amy and I walked back to her apartment.
It was a quiet and simple Easter, but I did receive something I didn’t expect: