I was blessed to lead a retreat on Saturday for the Catholic Women of the Chapel at Ft. Leonard Wood. It is always great to be on a U.S. Army post anywhere in the world. And this was no exception. But to be here to talk to a group of faith-filled women as the Lenten season is approaching was extra special.
But I’m not writing about that wonderful experience today. I want to talk about the Sunday vigil Mass I participated in afterward. It was a lovely Mass, as they all are, when we come together to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. The chapel had the familiar size, shape, and basic decor of a lot of Army chapels I’ve been to, for sure. But each Mass, even when the priest who presides is the same, and the hymns are familiar, and the prayers, too, each Mass is uniquely special.
After proclaiming the Gospel, Father Chris, our presider, gave us a wonderful message in his homily. He mentioned that he had us sing the Alleluia before the Gospel reading because, as this coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, we will not be singing the Alleluia (Gospel acclamation) again during Mass until the Easter celebration. And so he deemed it worth singing, even without instrumental accompaniment and without a cantor (she’d called in sick). Father led it himself a cappella before proclaiming the Gospel and it was beautiful.
He explained that he wanted us to sing it because it was the last time for 40 plus days. I had never much thought about the ‘last time’ we would sing the Alleluia before the Easter celebration. I appreciated this new Army Catholic Chaplain (he’s been doing this important job for Soldiers’ spiritual enrichment for only 8 months) pointing out the significance of this moment. It reminds me of how often we don’t know the last time something will happen. Sometimes that’s a good thing, or it doesn’t really matter. But sometimes it’s important to note when it’s happening because its absence has meaning in our lives.
“…don’t know what you got…”
What is the reason something has ceased? Was it for serious reasons? Or just a natural course of things? Is it to emphasize something else? It could be so that we appreciate it more when we get it back, if it’s something that we know (or hope) will return. And to use a trite but true adage, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” That is something I discussed briefly with the women on our retreat when I talked about ‘giving up’ things for the Lenten season. While we can fast to make a space for God in our hearts and in our lives, we can also find the yearning for what is temporarily gone makes us yearn more for the Giver of that gift, and we can be grateful for what we have willingly refrained from not only while it’s missing, but also when we get it back again.
We miss all of him
An Army wife can certainly understand that concept. We send away our Soldiers and, if he’s gone to a dangerous place, as they so often are, or he’s gone long enough, we can miss even the annoying little habits he has! We miss, in short, all of him. And that is true of many things and certainly people in our lives. Mostly people. I also talked about detachment from the things we don’t need – the “nice to haves,” not the have to haves.’ That’s a phrase I picked up hanging around Army folks for decades.
God is the Ultimate “have to have.” We can’t live without God. Even if we don’t know it. Here’s a lovely song about being desperate for God because we have learned, through God’s grace to know He loved us into being…And that is very good.