Monday, March 26, 2012

Which Way is it Pointing?

Photo mine

Yesterday, John and I attended Mass at a church that we don't often frequent. It's a beautiful old church, full of rich colors and art and soaring architecture. I am inspired simply by being there.

As the service began, the lector stepped forward to read from the bible. I had noticed him as he entered the church: an elderly man with stooped posture, a slight tremor, and very pale skin. He approached the lectern with shuffling gait and took what seemed like forever to make his way up the steps, to open the book, then finally to speak.

I had expected to hear a voice that was as frail as his body appeared to be, but instead was rocked back in my seat as he began reading from the book of John in thunderous tones, each word perfectly articulated with power and emotion, yet totally void of theatrics; thus infusing the sacred text with life and zest without placing himself in the spotlight. What a talent -- to speak selflessly in delivering other's words with vigor and and reverence.

I could have listened for hours. It would have been so easy to close my eyes and imagine that I were hearing the disciple himself speak.

He read two passages from the bible, and then was silent for the rest of the Mass. I missed hearing him. I began to observe other participants in the service as they spoke or sang their parts, and although I'm certain they didn't intend to, they approached the microphone or lectern in a manner that brought attention to themselves: a straightening of the shoulders, a clearing of the throat, or most evident to me: a singing style that clearly set that person's voice in a different place than the congregation, even though we were all singing the same song.

I hadn't thought much about the importance of selflessness in this type of setting before. Selflessness in leading a group of people in worship or song or......well, anything, I guess. To teach a class or lead a service in a way that focuses the attention on the concepts, the materials, the information, the prayer, or the meaning in such a way that the deliverer of the message is the one simply holding the flashlight and directing it's bright beam on the important things while leaving himself anonymously in the dark.

I lack skill in handling that metaphorical flashlight. I seem to always be holding it backwards so that I stand completely in it's light.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? While I acknowledge the importance of sharing personal experiences for the benefit of others, sometimes I forget that my life isn't actually all about ME. Hm. How do I turn that flashlight around?

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