A very lengthy—3 ½ hours–Easter vigil Mass once brought home to me the entire human condition just from two people sitting close by me.
During the numerous Baptisms taking place, I got the feeling I was being watched by someone in the pew in front of me. I glanced over to see a baby girl, perhaps 10 months old, her eyes dark as coffee beans, glaring at me. She had a little doll with her, one of those kind who have a plastic head, arms, and legs but the rest of the body is made of cloth. While staring at me, she turned the doll upside-down, stuck its butt into her mouth, and began teething on it.
I had to restrain a giggle. I was, after all, supposed to be paying attention to Mass, not a little girl chomping on a doll’s butt.
But then, just a few minutes later, during the Confirmations, tragedy struck at the other end of the pew I was in. A woman there got a text that a close family member had a medical emergency, and was in fact not expected to live.
So there it was. Comedy and tragedy. The beginning of life for a babe, and the end of life for an elderly woman. A Mass that had begun in darkness burst into light at the start of the Gloria. The darkness of Adam’s sin was washed away by the light of Baptism. Through Confirmation, the light of the Holy Spirit’s wisdom overpowered the darkness of our limited intellects.
And the tragedy of the cross had turned into the ecstasy of the Resurrection.
Even for the woman dying that night was the rebirth into life after death.
These contrasts: beginnings and ends, light and darkness, joy and sadness, make up the fabric of our lives.
Yet, through it all, was the one constant of Jesus in the sacraments that night: baptism, confirmation, and most especially Holy Eucharist.
It was definitely the best night of all, the best Mass of all, to be reminded of these facts.