I unlock the door and step inside, cool air hitting me as I kick off my snow covered boots and slip into my shoes. I haven't been here all month, Advent progressing without my presence.
Methodically I go about my duties in the silent church. I turn up the heat, pull the dust cloth off the altar. In the space of a few minutes I set up the altar, pour water into the font, place the Ciborium, the wafers, the water, the wine on the table by the entrance. I turn and dip my finger in the font and say a prayer.
I make my way to the fourth pew from the front. I kneel in the silence and solitude and tell God how ornery and resistant I feel. That I don't know why I am there, just that I am. After a while I am quiet, glad for the grace to be honest and raw before God.
Soon I can hear people stamping the snow off their boots, snow that has fallen every sinlge day this past week, as they come up the wooden steps of the church. They, too bring a blast of cold air in with them.
One hundred times out of a hundred that I come here I am the lector during the Mass. A pity party builds within me as I consider this. I rise and go to various neighbours, asking them to do the readings. I don't tell them I just want to sit in my seat, that I have no desire to contribute, that I don't want to do a thing.
We are few in number. Very few. A handful at best. It's Advent. There are four candles to light. When the priests finds out I'm not doing any readings he asks me to light one of the candles. I see several faces turned my way at his request. He's wrecking my firm intention to not participate. I tell him grumpily that I don't want to but I will. Harrumph.
So we process in and as we wait for the last strains of the entrance song to fade I consider how my orneriness is contributing negatively to the atmosphere. In my head comes a picture of Jesus and a small child. A small child having a whale of a temper tantrum with Jesus holding them by the back of their shirt, suspended in mid air kicking and hollering and carrying on, arms and legs flailing like an airplane hitting turbulence. Jesus can barely restrain himself from having an all out belly laugh. A small smile escapes my lips despite my resolve to be ornery to the end.
When my turn comes my candle won't light. I tip it and let wax drip away but still it resists the flame. The priest comes and together we get it lit. It glows faintly beside the others whose flames reach for the ceiling.
Eventually I thaw out emotionally enough to participate. I still feel the faint pressure of my heels digging in, not wanting to abandon myself to the moment. There is relief in prayer, even if its just to say that I feel empty, absolutely empty. At the end of Mass I consider Advent, the darkness I feel inside and out. Father Charlie has told me many times that beautiful flowers grow in the desert. "Fuck the desert" I think to myself. Been there done that as the saying goes. Every winter.
Soon the darkness will break.
Come O come, Emmanuel.