November 03, 2007

Lux Aeterna

Last night I went to an All Soul’s Day Mass.

I hadn’t been in years. Being of Hispanic descent I always remember that it’s el Día de los Muertos, but in the general excitement of the Feast of All Saints on the preceding day, the quiet, late-night Mass somehow always slipped into the background.

Of course it was beautiful.

We celebrated life in one wing of the huge, dark church, a small gathering beside the massive granite baptismal font. After the Liturgy of the Word, the bereaved members of the congregation came quietly forward to inscribe eternally beloved names in the parish Book of Remembrance. From my stance in the choir, I could see each person coming forward- sometimes alone, sometimes in little groups. As each came out of the shadowy aisles, I could see their faces.

A lonely-faced man in a long black coat holding a curly-headed little boy tightly by the hand.

Three Hispanic women, old, middle-aged, and young, with sad, sad black eyes.

My sweet neighbor up the street, recently widowed last spring.

A white-haired woman with the most beatific smile on her worn face.

There was something of loss in each face- fresh griefs and long-remembered partings expressed in eyes which all appeared old, no matter the age of the face. Processing quietly forward, each grayed form bent over the little table to write and then turned in silence to receive a candle from Father Mark.

That one instant was so wonderful. Coming forward out of the darkness, each extended their hands for the little candle, the little trembling piece of light. Then it was in their hands, and the light would suddenly show the colors and curves of each face, banishing shadows, reflecting in and illuminating each pair of eyes. There was an indescribable sense of silent power in the way each face was utterly transformed by the nearness of the warm flame.

There was not a single face that remained unchanged.

I experienced a profound peace, last night, and a quiet wonder.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis...

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