Sunday, October 22, 2006

Purple Strain

The northern New Jersey church I attended for Vigil Mass last night was outwardly stunning — a beautiful, towering stone structure dating from the 1830s.

Upon entering the large, incongruously modern glass doors (probably necessary to keep out the Jersey winter blasts), I saw that all the pews had been ripped out and the altar had been moved to the center of the church. The sanctuary had effectively become a theater-in-the-round. Rows of chairs faced each side of the altar, and each chair had a built-in shelf for a missal and hymnal. There were no kneelers.

Also, the entire floor of the massive structure was covered with blinding purple carpet. Well, it wasn't entirely purple; it had bright red flecks. Even the candlestick platforms on the altar were covered with the thick wooly fabric. It contrasted with the dull green cloth on the marble altar.

There were no places to kneel in the entire church, as far as I could see. While the stained glass windows remained, the walls seemed oddly bare, save for the small, tasteful Stations of the Cross and a tall, old crucifix leaning against a wall.

The tabernacle was nowhere in sight. I had the feeling I would need a metal detector to find it.

About 150 people were there, largely grandparents and grandkids — the parents presumably having a night out. No one kneeled during the entire service. I actually had trouble remembering when to kneel, because I couldn't recognize the different parts of the Eucharist service; they sounded different from what I was used to. Finally I figured out that when they were singing "Prince of Peace, you take away the sins of the world," they meant, "Lamb of God," so I kneeled when the song ended. I was in the front row, so it felt pretty weird.

And yes, I got rug burns.