By The Very Rev’d Craig Loya, SCP
At the cathedral where I serve as dean, the Holy Eucharist is celebrated several days every week, in addition to Sundays, and on every major Holy Day. The weekday liturgies are not particularly well attended. There are usually fewer than five people, and it’s not unusual for only the priest and the lay server to be present.
When I first arrived, a big part of me resented these liturgies. On more than one occasion, I was ready to discontinue the practice altogether. I am too busy to get everything done already, I thought, so how could I justify spending thirty minutes celebrating the Eucharist with just a few people? What an inefficient use of my limited time!
A woman who was just beginning the process to become a deacon when I arrived reminded me that the only reason she found our congregation is because, in a moment of personal crisis, when her brother was in the midst of a surgery that did not appear to be going well, she found that we had a noon mass, and joined us to pray. That experience, and the welcome she received, helped lead her to where she is today: a deacon serving the poor and forgotten in the name of Jesus every day.
Our most dedicated and reliable congregation attends on Fridays. These four or five people have attended, almost every Friday, for several years now. Before beginning the practice, none of them knew each other. Now, they have come to share their lives in the deepest ways with each other. Two recent widowers have lunch together after every single Friday mass, and they all keep close tabs on the ninety-seven year-old woman who attends, offering spiritual and concrete assistance for her and her family.
These people, along with my commitment to the SCP Rule of Life, are the main reason I never abandoned the practice altogether, and slowly, over the years, these celebrations have become a spiritual anchor for me, and a critical way that I seek to keep the SCP vow to of centering my spiritual life on the Eucharist.
As a disciple, the noon mass interrupts my day with all of its busyness and worries, and calls me back to gratitude, the fundamental spiritual posture for a disciple of Jesus. The Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, gradually shapes our souls to engage every moment, every task, every encounter, from a place of deep gratitude for all that God has given. The practice of almost daily Eucharist helps me focus on God’s grace, abundantly given, rather than on my own needs and shortcomings.
As a priest, the mass reminds me who I am and what I am for. When I have to stop my day to say mass, I am reminded that the God's mission doesn't depend on my efforts, and the Church is not, finally, about my successes or failures. God's mission in the world depends entirely on the power of God's Holy Spirit, and my job as a priest is to offer myself, my labors, and the people in my care over fully to that mission in the world.
As a cathedral in the center of a city, the Eucharist is the heart that beats day in and day out for the life of our city and diocese. On numerous occasions, a random stranger has appeared at one of our noon masses, just like the woman who is now one of our deacons, telling us later that they stumbled upon our little place of prayer and quiet and just the critical moment. Whether all the people who walk hurriedly past our building every day on their way to their busy and important jobs know it or not, our daily masses help ground our neighborhood, our city, and our diocese in the current of God’s mercy and love that flows along gently just beneath the surface of our lives.
Returning to the noon mass, when I feel like it and when I don’t; when I’m too busy, or too bored, or too lazy; when I’m too anxious, or too satisfied with my own efforts; in good times and bad times, reminds me that, in all those moments, come what may, God is faithful to me, to the Church, and to the whole world Jesus died to save. So now, I thank God every day for the great gift of standing in God’s house, and swimming in that river of love.
The Very Rev’d Craig Loya, SCP, is dean and rector of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska.