Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lead Us Not Into Temptation...

And forgive us our trespasses...

This one is very personal.

I didn't mean to gatecrash their mass! I got up early to go to the cathedral. It is lovely first thing in the morning. There are no crowds and you can commune with your own sense of the divine without feeling either lost, or conspicuous. You can trace your fingers over the builder's marks and no-one asks you if this is some sort of a ritual. I went "down in the basement" as I call the crypt to have a quick word with Priscillian: just to let him know that I was back. I heard them singing you see. Singing very sweetly in German. It was a private mass, behind the tomb in a place I longed to visit. I didn't take myself there; my feet did.

Once there and realising that I was truly intruding, I could hardly turn tail and run. So I stayed. As I listened to the mass in German I began to think of the things I was grateful for: the opportunity to be so close to these people who were in some way "related" to me. I thought of being a grandmother and how much joy that brings me - the child of my child - and then suddenly remembered that my paternal grandmother, "Oma", was a Catholic from the Black Forest. I never really knew her at all. In fact, I don't remember liking her very much. I think somehow I knew that she wanted to steal my father and take him back to Germany. I spoke no German, although her English was good. But I didn't trust her and that was that.

Neither of us made much attempt to bridge this gap.

My father did not go back to Germany. At least not then. That came much later. In fact he died there. I didn't know him either and I have written about this at length in another book of mine entitled The Índalo Quest, not now in print.

So while I was thinking about my granny and my father, something very embarrassing happened: I began to cry; quietly, but very visibly and in that small space and with that small group, very noticeably.

To make matters worse was something I hadn't even considered: when it came time to take the sacrament, I hoped that I would be passed over, but I was not. I did not know then that one may cross one's hands over one's chest and just receive the blessing. I was not baptised. At all! I had to make a decision: run? explain? (no chance of that!), or accept that this was perfectly OK, Catholic or not. I had made myself part of the group's worship and no-one would mind if I continued to participate.

I should not have done it, of course. I do not accept the transubstatiation. But somehow, it didn't seem to matter. I felt a wave of love from somewhere in that normally inaccessible chapel, the one I was really trespassing in. As soon as the mass was over, I left immediately. I went to sit on the front row of the south transcept and made myself small.

And then the most amazing thing happened...

A woman from the group approached me. She seemed to be seeking me out. She said no words, but she came up to me and gave me the most wonderful hug I have ever had in my life. It was completely maternal even though she was probably a little younger than me. I started to cry again and, learning she spoke English, said I was sorry to have barged in to what was clearly a private service. I told her about my thoughts: about my German half that I had never acknowledged and the father and grandmother I had never known.

She kept on hugging me.

Finally she said: "You know that God is with you?"

I said that Yes, I did. I really did. I knew he was.

"Behold I stand at the door and knock..."

Someone once said to me: you know the handle is on the inside?

Words and times to ponder.

The woman's name was "Garda": a guardian angel perhaps...?

Please don't forget to fill out my "Post-Camino Refuge" Questionnaire. Go down two posts for the link. Help me get to 200 responses by Sunday. It's just 7 questions and 3 minutes but it's worth a million to me. Thanks, Tracy

1 comment:

  1. ...“I should not have done it, of course”...
    Of course you should have done just that… Even our Prinses Juliana, in her last public appearance at the wedding of her Grandson Prins Maurits, joined the communion rite ( http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juliana_der_Nederlanden ) which caused some discussion in ecclesiastical circles of course, but the general public took no notice if I remember correctly…
    It’s the intention of giving and receiving, of connecting that counts. Don’t feel bad about it, it was a good experience.
    And just to make your brilliant miracle a tiny facet more complete, if I may: I suppose that lady would write her name Gerda, like they do in Germany and we also do in Holland; I have two Gerda’s in our families.
    What a wonderful stories…