RICHLAND, Wash. -- It's Sunday evening. I'm writing these reflections from a place far away.
Normally, I'm at home unwinding after a full day of worship services and church activities. But tonight, my heart, mind and body are all in a much different place: Florence, Italy!
Today, this "protestant pastor" attended Catholic Mass with my family at Santa Maria Del Fiore, better known by locals as the "Duomo" (completed in 1436 AD). The day before, we had stood atop the 296-foot dome enjoying a 360-degree panoramic view of all of Florence.
But during the service this morning, we sat ground level and up front close to the altar, under the magnificence of the dome's enormous last judgment frescoe by Vascari and Zuccari.
For one hour, I was drawn into a spiritual experience far different than I am accustomed to. Marble, mystery, iconography, Latin, chanting, incense, symbolic gesticulations, and best of all, vast space with unending echoes.
Not knowing the language allowed me (forced me) to focus in on my other learning senses in worship -- sight, sound, aroma, feelings and space. I didn't understand the Latin homily (sermon), but I will not soon forget the sense that I left with today; the power of mystery, message and music filling the air and echoing in perpetual, unstoppable praise!
Catholics, it turns out, specialize in transcendence and mystery. Protestants have been known to focus more on immanence and certainty. Both emphases are key biblical truths and vital dimensions of authentic Christian spiritual tradition. Drawing upon and learning from our fellow Christ-follower traditions enriches our spiritual vantage points and helps us to see God, ourselves and our own spiritual practices in new and deeper ways.
Today, I was transported into Solomon's vantage point: "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2 NIV).
May God give us heaven's perspective today!
* Rev. David Parker is lead pastor at Central United Protestant Church in Richland.
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