A few hours ago the Cardinals who had made it to Rome gathered at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica for and Vespers. I was able to take part in this prayer via satellite.
There are a couple of moments that I found to be especially powerful. Let me share one of these moments with you now.
For some time the Cardinals knelt in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. I was struck by how odd this must seem to someone who has no experience of the Eucharist as the reality of Jesus Christ with us. In the secular view, here was a group of men, on their knees, obviously in adoration of what appears to be a gold shrine set on an altar. The one who looked a bit more closely would notice that the gold star encased a small white circle of bread.
So, what are these Cardinals doing?
Well, we could say that this is not easy to put into words since it is “mystery”. However in the language of faith, a mystery is not something that cannot be known. A mystery is what can only be known through the eyes of faith. And with this breadth of vision it is the mystery-stuff of life that has much more influence on every breathing moment than the stuff that is tangible and obvious.
A useful example is the human experience of love. How difficult it can be for the outsider to understand what two people might see in each other. Certainly such love is inexplicable! Yet for the couple who are in love, there is nothing more real. Every moment is now lived in this experience of love. Instead of struggling to live by the encouragement of distant echo, I now hear with my own ears and see with my own eyes.
I am sure that the non-believing spectator would at least be curious, perhaps puzzled, by these men on their knees before what has the simple appearance of bread.
Thanks be to God for the eyes of faith, that enable us to experience this mystery of God-with-us. As long as these Cardinals remained focussed on the reality of Jesus among us, we will see emerge from the conclave, the pope that the Holy Spirit has chosen for the Church at this time.