Sunday, May 7, 2006

Veritas et Sanctitas

Today I was in a midtown church near my work. It's not my favorite church to attend for Mass — I was there more out of convenience* — but the building is beautiful and feels like a holy place.

I mention the services' not being special because one of the things that I like about Catholic worship, particularly in such heavenly surroundings, is that it has a certain bottom-line sanctity regardless of things like the way the music is sung or the way the homily is delivered.

As I looked up at the stained-glass windows, the white walls, and the high ceiling, I thought about a friend of mine who loves truth but does not yet admit knowledge of God.

It struck me very suddenly that my friend was a nonbeliever not because he hated sanctified things, but because he was in some sense frightened or disconcerted by the concept of sanctity — its breadth, its depth, its sheer immensity. After all, if one believes that God is holy, one discovers immediately that holiness is all around. One experiences this awareness with special intensity in a church, surrounded by images of people who, throughout the ages, lived out their faith in a way that is too beautiful and too self-sacrificing for us to fully conceive.

It reminds me of what C.S. Lewis said — I think he mentioned it in Mere Christianity and illustrated it by example in The Great Divorce — about how the most ordinary person whom we pass by every day and to whom we never give a second thought, might in Heaven be a creature too bright and dazzling for us to behold.

*Cue Church Lady: "Some people only go to church when it's convenient"