Last night, at Holy Thursday Mass, as communion came to a close the church grew dark as one by one the lights were turned off until the only light was that of the glowing candles lighting the way for the procession of the Real Presence of Christ to a candle-lit altar on the opposite side of the church and a soft glow that very dimly lit the crucifix hanging above. Too large and too high up to be taken down or covered, it was the only visible statue left. The choir sang solemnly as we knelt in the darkened church.
The beauty of this solemn hymn echoed through the otherwise silent church as we knelt in the darkness. The altar was stripped bare. The tabernacle left open and empty. The celebration of the washing of the feet and the last supper had given way to the remembrance of the darkest night. The night our Lord was betrayed, arrested, and sent to His death.
I looked up at the crucifix now cloaked in darkness. The shadows made our Savior look more sorrowful, more pained. As the choir sang the words, I could hear Jesus pleading, “Stay with me!” The music, the darkness, the thought of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane pleading and praying overcame me and I closed my eyes as tears began to fall. The words echoed through me, “Stay with me. Remain with me. Watch and pray.” (Mt 26:38) The weight of those words filled me. Our God asks us to simply be with Him. To believe in Him, and to follow Him. How simple a request and yet how often we fall short. Each time the choir repeated the words, I felt overcome with emotion as more tears fell.
Eventually the music stopped. Slowly the pews emptied as we silently sat in adoration of our Lord, truly present before us in the sacred Eucharist. I opened my eyes to look up again at the altar bare before me. And I felt in that moment my soul stripped as bare as the altar before me. My gaze shifted to the illuminated Host on the side altar. I looked on in adoration. There were no words I could find to pray so I sat in silence. Listening. Silently praying only the name of my Savior who gave His life for us. Emptied of all worries, all doubts, all fears, all thoughts. Of everything but Jesus there before me.
When the time came for me to leave, I reluctantly stood up and walked over to the small altar with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I knelt before Him and felt His presence fill me up completely. The beauty, the reverence, the holiness of this sacred night had emptied me of me so I could be filled with Him. I was stripped bare so that He could cover me with His love.