Why We Go

For those of us who manage to get to Mass at least once a week, not infrequently arriving moments before the sound of the opening hymn, the distance between car and church is only a parking lot away, even less if you’re lucky enough to be dropped off a couple feet from the door. It is no great spatial challenge, in other words, to navigate the short distance. Nor is the issue of time a particular problem, unless, of course, having slept in you find yourself showing up so late you wonder if it was worthwhile going in the first place.

Still, most of us do go, thinking it sufficiently worthwhile to make the sacrifice. Week after week, in fact, we put in the time, dutifully finding the nearest pew where, for the space of an hour or so, we stand, sit, or kneel alongside hundreds of other similarly situated members of Christ’s Body.

But what is it that we think we’re doing there? Why have we come? Are we aware that during the brief time we spend filling that space, we’ve actually taken leave of this world, entering upon another world far beyond the parking lot? That we’ve been swept utterly away from the workaday world we know, summoned across the threshold of time and space, in order that we may be ushered into the very presence of God Himself? “Suddenly,” reports Josef Pieper in his little book In Tune with the World, “the walls of the solid here and now are burst asunder and the everyday realm of existence is thrown open to Eternity.”

How is that possible? Where is the point of entry into that higher life? How does one transition from time into eternity? I mean, without actually being dead first? Does that even make sense, biologically speaking?

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