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The day the Mass truly became “Heaven on Earth” for me

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"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)

A couple of rows in front me at Mass, sitting at the outside end of the row, was a man caring for another, severely disabled, man. The second made abrupt loud noises and sometimes jerked his legs or arms. The row in front of them and to their right ended at the pillar, leaving an empty space between the pillar and the aisle. There they weren’t pinned into the pew, though they were denied a view of the altar.

At the Eucharistic Prayer, the first man held the second man as they together stood up and shuffled a few steps up to the kneeler. As they knelt, he wrapped his right arm around his friend’s back. His left arm must have gone around the man’s chest and locked arms with the other one, probably with his left hand holding the top of the pew.

For the whole Eucharistic Prayer, he held his friend tightly with his face pressed into his friend’s back. Holding him upright for several minutes must have been hard to do.

Above their heads, down the aisle, I could see Mary’s altar. In our church, it holds a near-life-sized statue of Mary crowned, a sweet Italian-looking woman in pastel-colored clothes. She holds her young Son, also wearing pastels and a crown, his hand raised in blessing.

What it’s all about

I missed most of the prayer because I was just looking at the two men, and our Savior, and His Mother. At the altar beyond the end of the aisle was the picture of a royal, eternal triumph, symbolizing the world from which God has wiped away the tears from every eye, where there is no more death, or mourning, or pain, or sorrow. Those things will have passed away.

Closer to me was a man in pain and presumably sorrow and mourning, whose eyes must have filled with tears sometimes. His life must be the source of tears in those who love him. There was a man who represented the sorrows and sadness of this world.

His life, we trust, points toward that crowned woman and her crowned Son, who live and reign in a world where he will finally speak and walk, laugh and run. But in the future, maybe decades from now, distant from him as the altar stood, far down the aisle.

Only later did I realized that before me had been a sign of the life of that crowned woman and her crowned Son. The message that this life isn’t only an eschatological reality, a future hope, a joy to be experienced later.

In front of me at Mass was Heaven enacted, in that man who held his friend so tightly as they worshiped their Lord. He could have been wearing a crown.

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