I have walked down the aisle so many times before: as a baby in a baptismal gown; as a candidate wearing a dress that was specially selected for the final step of my journey into Catholicism; as a bride, veiled and adorned with white lace; as a mother carrying a little child draped in white. Yesterday, I came to the front of the Church shepherding a little girl whose post-Lacrosse hair had been forgotten and hung in an off-center, half-fallen out ponytail. I came carrying a little boy whose shoes were inadvertently left at home. I came after sitting through the reading of Christ’s Passion while trying to prevent that little boy from poking the lady in front of us with his palms. I came after whispering threats of spending the remainder of the service in his car seat if he didn’t quiet down and stop kicking the pew. I came hoping that no one heard him belting out, “The Doggy of Faith!” in a distorted echo of the priest. I came after keeping my foot suspended for almost an hour so that the kneeler did not get knocked down into any unsuspecting shins. I came after trying but failing to silently mouth instructions to my daughter through my mask. I came realizing I should have worn a belt with my new pants. I came thinking that I should have checked what my daughter picked to wear before we left for church. I came hobbling along with my ankle in a brace, unsure when it would choose to give out again. In short, I came as a very human, very imperfect person and that act of coming helped me realize the incredible beauty of my Savior and the Mass He gave us.
The wonder of our liturgy is not the bells that brought a gasp of awe from my distracted son and redirected his attention towards the altar. It is not the music we sing, texts we read, or words of prayer we say. It is not the faithful solemnly processing in a line. It is not those who are meticulously clad in their Sunday best. It is certainly not my ragamuffin family tripping and stumbling its way along.
The treasure of our liturgy is Jesus, himself. He is the one at whose presence the bells ring. It is Jesus to which all of our songs, readings and prayers point. He is the Bridegroom waiting for us at the aisle’s end with nothing but infinite love. He is the one who wants to be united to us whether we are dressed like royalty or paupers, knowing that we are all hopelessly a mess underneath the coverings with which we wrap ourselves. His unquenchable love for us that endures all of our short comings and His all-knowing and complete welcome are the true treasures of the Church. He is what makes our faith beautiful and in the process of surrendering our pride and coming to Him in the midst of our own humanness, we are made beautiful, too.
So I encourage you to come to Him this Holy week. Come with whatever shortcomings, embarassments, and disappointments you have. Come with your Lenten failures and your unruly children. Come if you don’t remember when to sit, stand or kneel. Come if it has been years since you last came. Come if you just can not get over your sense of guilt and shame. Come if you are late. Come however you can. You will find a Savior waiting for you with wide-open arms, ready to dazzle you with His unbelievable love as He welcomes you home.