For the second time, I made my way to one of the Old Town cathedrals for Sunday mass. Why not? My home church, Eaglebrook, is hip and relevant and all, but let’s face it, they don’t have beautiful angelic paintings, colorful stained glass, majestic pillars, and a huge gold figure of Jesus on the cross hanging from the middle of the lectern. So, I googled my way to the Toruń cathedral and quietly followed an elderly lady through a small side door. As soon as I entered I was struck with the powerful smell of mold. (I don’t think it was the elderly lady, but I’m not entirely sure.) The other thing I couldn’t help but notice was how cold it was–a good 10 degrees colder than the outside winter chill. I pulled my winter coat, scarf and mittens tighter and found my way to an empty wooden pew, opened the little pew door, and prepared myself for the Polish mass. The bell rang, the priest arrived, and an electric bass began to play something that was a unique cross between a hymn and a country western song.
As the mass progressed, it was clear I wasn’t going to understand one Polish word (all I could hope to do was not sit or stand at the wrong time), so I began studying the artwork surrounding me. One piece after another showed Jesus…Jesus on the cross, Jesus going to the cross, Jesus coming off the cross, Jesus next to the cross, and Jesus in a cloud above the cross. Oblivious to the sermon or readings, I had some time to contemplate the real meaning of that art. It’s strange, in the US we don’t talk about the cross so much. But that sacrifice is central to the gospel. Central to my life as a Christian. Central to what I have to be thankful for. Jesus literally died on the cross. For me.
As the kindly priest finished his sermon, I took the opportunity to kneel in my little pew. In that cold, smelly, beautiful space, even though I didn’t understand one word of what was being said, I felt truly thankful. Sometimes God uses the uncomfortable, simple, complex things to speak in a way that is much more meaningful than words could ever be.