I recently returned home from a trip to North Carolina with a good friend. It was our 2nd annual “March Madness” getaway. (We were getting away from the NCAA basketball playoffs which were consuming each of our husband’s attentions). We had a wonderful visit in Asheville, NC and Banner Elk, NC where these two Florida girls witnessed a beautiful, yet unexpected, snowfall.
As it happened, we were making our trip home on Palm Sunday.
I am Protestant and my friend is Catholic. I have attended Mass with her on different occasions, especially when we have traveled together and she has attended church services with me. She did some research and discovered there was a Basilica in Asheville so we made plans to attend Mass there before we headed home. I am so glad that we did. It was a wonderful way to start this Holy Week.
I love my church. My pastor preaches the word of God without hesitation. I love the praise and worship songs that we sing mixed in with the older hymns. And, I think it is pretty cool that we worship in a building that was once a shopping mall! But, I will have to say, I was really blessed by the Palm Sunday Mass at the Basilica of Saint Lawrence.
I felt awe and reverence as I entered the majestic, hundred-year-old structure. The sights, sounds and scents were so different than what I encounter on a typical Sunday morning. My heart was ready to worship.
“All glory laud and honor to you redeemer king”
The songs we sang were ancient, unfamiliar but that is what made them so exceptional. Having grown up in church, I think that sometimes I sing the songs and hymns from memory without really focusing on what I am saying. This verse from O Sacred Head touched my heart.
What language shall I borrow to thank you dearest friend,
for this your dying sorrow, Your mercy without end?
Lord make me yours forever, a loyal servant true,
And let me never, never, outlive my love for you.
Bernard of Clairvaux (12th cent.)
We stood and participated in the reading of the passion from Mark 14-15. The narrator had a beautiful, strong voice. The priest read the words of Jesus. The congregation had parts to read as well, the most uncomfortable being from Mark 15: 13-14 where the crowd shouts “Crucify Him”! It is one thing to read that verse in the Bible but another to say it out loud. Would I have been one of the crowd on that terrible day long ago?
The message from the priest was from Philippians 2:5-11 which highlights the humility of Jesus. He reminded us that as the scripture says, our attitude should be the same as that of Christ. He spoke of unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ and of unity with Christ.
We knelt in prayer, heads bowed and hands folded in reverence to the Lord.
I sat quietly in the pew as my friend went to the altar to receive communion. I was touched by the gentleness of the one who delivered the Eucharist to a frail, elderly woman in the row in front of me. For some reason, she reminded me of my grandmother which made my eyes sting with tears.
At the end of the service, I felt that I had truly experienced worship! I had been in the presence of the Lord. This change of perspective was just what I needed! And to top it off, Father Thomas prayed for us to have safe travels back to Florida . . . and we did!
I would encourage you to find a church to visit when you are out of town. A different setting will help you focus on the important questions –
Why have you come to worship and Who have you come to worship?
These are things that I will think about the next time I am in my home church.
If you want to find our more about the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville click below