A few nights ago, I took a quick detour on the way home from work. All of my students actually canceled or didn't show up (which is incredibly rare), so I was able to head home around 6pm. I took a nice leisurely stroll from the church towards the house. I was able to stop in a bookstore for a few minutes, window shop, and walk slowly down the street...
One of my favorite buildings is on the way home. It is a BEAUTIFUL church building that stands on the corner two blocks away from the house. The church, Basilica Auxiliadora (Church of our Helper, aka Mary), is a beautiful masterpiece renowned in the city for its beauty.
I don't have any pictures of the church, because (a) it is rarely open, and (b) it is always filled with people praying, confessing, or worshiping. (I always feel bad taking pictures of people while they worship.)
The church is absolutely beautiful. The columns are beautifully painted in stripes. The confessionals and woodworking are beautifully crafted of walnut with a gorgeous finish. The holy water vessels are marble statues of angels proffering the libations in seashells. The chapels are tastefully done; not overpowering, like in many churches. And there is actually a statue of Jesus alive, not just the crucified Jesus on the cross, another Pieta, or the Jesus of the Sacred Heart.
As I stepped into the church, I was awed by the sense of grandeur that was there. (No, I have no desire to become Catholic.) Yet as I sat in the back row, taking in the scene around me, I realized that this church evoked the same feelings and energy that the Gothic cathedrals of Europe inspire. These basilicas were built to remind the worshiper of the majesty and mystery of God. The nave draws the worshiper's eyes up towards heaven. The columns reminde them of the stability of God. The echoes seemed to wait in eager anticipation for the sounds of worship. The congregants join with hundreds and thousands throughout the generations who had thronged together in those same halls for countless years.
As I drank in the scene before me, I was struck by the majesty of God. I watched as a dozen people (mostly older, but of all generations) entered and left the church. Some came for confession. Others came for prayer. Some stayed for hours, while others entered and left within the length of a "Hail Mary, full of gace, the Lord is with thee..." Yet each person comes for an encounter with God.
Often I find myself caught up in the monotonous cycle of life. I run from home to work, work to home, with class thrown in between, along with odd trips to the store, errands in the area, occasional soccer games, and coffees with compañeros. Yet I rarely take time out and just stop: stop to process, stop to pray, stop to encounter, stop to listen to a message from God.
I rarely feel overwhelmed by the majesty of God. Yet any time that I stop and process, I recognize the beautiful majesty and holiness of the God of the Heavens.
God is amazing; sometimes it takes long walks home and detours to beautiful basilicas to help me stop and recognize the mystery of God.
May we keep our eyes open for chance encounters with God! May we worship with all abandon. May we sit in silence or sing with all our hearts, praising the God who was, who is, and who is to come.