I went to Reconciliation on Wednesday at the Cathedral downtown.  As I walked into the Sanctuary, there was a man on his knees on the bare wood floor in front of the altar.  The area to wait in line for confession is, sadly, almost right next to the altar and as I sat he was right in front of me.  He was a small man, not over 160 pounds, and vaguely oriental looking.  He may have been from Viet Nam or Thailand, not China or Japan.  He was older, his hair going to gray, and wore clean but well worn clothing, very plain and simple.  He held his hands together in a prayer posture and had a Rosary wrapped around his fingers.  As he prayed he periodically made deep bows to the altar in front of him.  After a few minutes he came and sat next to me, hardly filling the hard wood chair, with his knees together, still praying softly under his breath, still gesturing a bow periodically. 


          As I watched him I could only think he was a man overcome by the weight of his sin or, perhaps, some deeply fathomless sorrow.  I don't think I have ever seen a more perfect display of penitence in my life.  Then I looked at the two men ahead of me in line, both middle-aged, one dressed for work as a laborer, the other in sweat pants and shirt.  Neither man prayed that I could tell.  Their times in the confessional were short and it was, in typically American fashion, very business like.  I fit right in with them.


          But as I thought it over, it occurred to me that the man on his knees, rather than being born down by sin and sorrow, was perhaps the product of a culture that understood the majesty and the mystery of what we all were about as we sat there waiting for the priest.  Perhaps his culture had not yet learned to take God for granted, but stood in fear and trembling before the Creator of the universe. 


          I don't know if any of my conjectures are true, but, for one of the few times in my life, I believe I saw exactly what true worship looked like.  It was a humbling experience.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on January 23, 2009 12:37 PM.

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