OK, I confess. I haven't been to Mass in the last 3 Sundays. No special reason - just had a late Saturday night or a need to collect myself.
Just the other day, I had this strange experience. I did not know what the Sunday reading was, and I didn't much care. I had this almost out-of-body sensation of living in a world without a religious overlay. In which the myths and stories that guided my life were no longer important. As though Jesus and the gospels had lost their vitality and their pull on my soul.
I imagined a world where a forest was just a forest, not a manifestation of Creation.Where a sky was just sky, without intimations of Heaven.
Yesterday, I was picking music for my community's feast day for the Virgin. And as I considered which old chestnuts to include in the program, I wondered if I, amateur songwriter, might write up something myself. But I didn't know where I'd begin. Mary, the woman for whom the Church has sprung cartwheels in ages past, seemed to have no immediacy to me. I don't feel that I need to approach Christ through her. I don't feel that she has special powers to keep me safe, or that praying to her has special resonance with God. Any decent God doesn't need me to memorize lists of intermediaries, praying to the right one for the right cure or help with the right problem.
I did feel a bit nervous, wondering whether the heavenly host had withdrawn from me, springing back into itself like a carpenter's measure, because I had failed to do it honor or give it my attention. Was this the dark night of the soul? A transition to another level of spirituality? Or a passing perception?
I'm not sure yet.
I do know that I still carry around the lessons of the gospels -- about love of neighbor, preference for the poor, distrust of wealth, the benignity of God. But I also know that the old stories don't have the same resonance right now. Some seem downright strange. For instance, I can't get worked up about Christ dying for my sins. I guess I should be grateful, but I don't understand the problem that his death was supposed to solve. I read today about Mark Chapman, John Lennon's killer, saying that he had found peace and forgiveness in his belief in Jesus. Maybe I am hard-hearted, but I can't imagine perpetrating that crime and feeling like I could put it behind me. Tone down its horror maybe, but its after-effects would keep pace with my life, like a jogging buddy. I would never forget that I had gunned down a Beatle. For no good reason.
Neither can I get excited about Jesus being the Messiah or talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. I almost wonder if these things were just features of a strange strand of Judaism that would have died out if it hadn't been picked up by Christians. Imagine 2000 years with no one arguing whether Jesus was or wasn't the messiah. 2000 years free of pogroms and crusades. 2000 years without original sin or the Trinity or the papacy.
I feel prepared to rebuild my faith from the ground up. Community, justice and truth still propel me. The wonders of the Universe and of Nature awe me. Let's see where this takes us!