I went to church tonight.
I've been to church at night a lot lately. It is a holy season, after all.
I like going at night. I'd rather not go anywhere, of course, but if I can't just stay home, church isn't a bad place to be.
I like approaching the lit building from the dark parking lot, feeling its warmth wrap around me when I enter. I like the shade of turquoise the stained glass behind the altar takes on after the sun goes down.
It's beautiful when the sun shines through... no, not just beautiful... glorious!
But at night, it takes on a quiet beauty. A calm beauty. Meditative.
Tonight we went for a penitential service. It's the season of Advent, a time for reflection, and what's a better trigger for reflection than a thorough "examination of conscience"?
The priest or deacon prompts us with questions like "Have I been dishonest?" or "Have I coveted my neighbor's Nikon D90?" Okay, he didn't say that last one, but it might apply to me, and I have to be honest with myself! That's the whole point!
It's communal, in that we're there together, but private, in that we don't have to answer out loud (praise God!)
I think this is an exercise all of us should do regularly, though, no matter what our beliefs. Well, all of us who want to be good people. Granted, there are quite a few questions that pertain to faith in a Catholic Examination of Conscience, but many of them (like the ones above) can apply to anyone and serve to make us stop and take a real look at ourselves.
Lying, cheating, coveting...those are no-no's in almost all ideologies. (And I prefer not to think about the ones that don't consider them no-no's.)
I know, for me, this is a great exercise. I definitely need to do this from time to time...look myself straight in the heart and ask these blunt questions. Because I can be pretty tricky. Pretty convincing. I can fool myself into believing I'm above any of that sinful stuff...but when I grab a flashlight and look in the corners...tsk, tsk, tsk...I can see it's time to grab a broom.
The other reason I like going to church in between Sundays is it's a chance to light another candle, to send my prayer up 24/7 plus some. Lord knows I'm praying for my own family right now, and our needs, but tonight it hit me more than ever that there are people out there mourning loved ones over the holidays...their parents, their children. There are people spending the holidays alone. There are people with even less money than we have and not nearly as much credit available to give the illusion of having money. There are people struggling with illness, depression, loss... and they need all the prayer they can get.
So tonight I lit a candle for them.