Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Faults and Flames and Forgiveness

I normally start my mornings at Malvern Prep with daily Mass (and I feel it when I don't). Typically, there are about six or seven of us, sometimes just three, with Fr. Baker offering up the Perfect Prayer. With such a small number of people, it's sometimes kind of "weird" giving the responses at Mass... you know what I mean?

Once in awhile you miss your cue, or a word is off, or your mind wanders and sometimes slips up without the blanket of hundreds of other voices covering over your own.

"...and also with you." (easy)

"... thanks be to God." (piece of cake)

"May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands, for the praise (glory?) and glory (praise?) of His Name, uh, for our good and ... for the good? of all His (the) Church... I think." (dang it)

One of the awkwardly beautiful parts of this daily Mass of sometimes just four souls (and all of Heaven of course, smiling at us in our awkwardness) is the Lamb of God sequence. I was contemplating it the other day. It was just before the Fire of Love descended from Heaven to consume our sins and set a flame like Prometheus in our hearts through the Eucharist, that me, Gary, and Fran said, three times...

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace...

Three guys saying this three times in a big, mostly empty, chapel first thing in the morning. Sometimes it's muffled, sometimes robotic. But the other day it zapped me.

There's a scene from the movie Good Will Hunting where the therapist (Robin Williams) says something three times (and then keeps saying it) to the wounded soul of Will Hunting (Matt Damon). "It's not your fault," he whispers.

To this tough on the outside torn on the inside young man, abused as a youth, he speaks these words again and again:

It's not your fault.
It's not your fault.
It's not your fault.

And Will Hunting, at first, says simply "I know."

Then it gets awkward. The good doctor, himself a wounded healer, keeps saying it... It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. Resisting at first, then angry, Will finally collapses in his arms as the terrible weight of guilt and shame and rage and bitterness at the abuse he suffered as a child breaks over him like salty waves. It's a heart-breaking and beautiful scene.

Back to the Lamb of God...

Here, the tides have turned. Standing there in the chapel, we come to a realization that it is, in fact, our fault. It's because of me and my family tree that Love was crucified on a tree. And we need to own that fact. That's why every Mass starts off with the penitential rite. I have sinned! I messed up! Throughout my life I've added many a sour note to the symphony of God's original plan, and sometimes it's led many a fellow musician into discord and dissonance. So we take the time to look at this scribbled parchment and we turn it over to the Master Composer. And get this.... He rewrites it all.... using our notes (I love how He does that!). They are transformed, washed clean in the blood of the Lamb in a beautiful paradoxical spin cycle that can only be done by the Whirlwind of Love that is the Trinity. He takes away the sour notes of the world, the wounds and weeping and grants us peace. "By our very wounds we are healed," so the Talmud tells us.

It's unbelievable. I think that's why we need to say it three times.... he takes away our sins, and the sins of the world. He grants us peace. And we collapse into His Heart at the great and intimate encounter that is the Eucharist... and every morning we get to stand in that Flame of Love, to consume and be consumed, and all our faults and failings become the kindling for that Fire of Mercy.
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