In addition to our principal celebrations on the Lord’s Day, the cathedral celebrates Holy Eucharist every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Our weekday services are not well-attended. Occasionally, we’ll have as many as eight or nine people in the congregation, but most of the time it’s two or three, and on many days, like today, it is just me and the lay server. I will confess that I often find this responsibility tedious and burdensome When I already have an impossibly long to do list, a schedule full of meetings upon meetings, and when I’m always conscious of letting someone down by what I’ve failed to do, saying mass for one or two people doesn’t exactly feel like a welcome addition to a full plate.
I’m the pastor, so I could discontinue the practice, of course, and I have come close to doing so many times. But our monk-in-residence and a few faithful souls love that we do it and think it’s important, and I love them and think they’re important, so here we are.
To be honest, the longer I have put up with it, the more deeply I have been converted by it. Struggling with the very tedium and burden of daily Eucharists has helped me come to know Jesus more fully, experience God’s love in deeper ways, and better understand what, as a priest in Christ’s Church, I am for.
I’m usually rushing from something to get to the chapel on time, then rushing off to something else as soon as I can get away. That means I’m almost always praying about whatever is right in front of me on any given day. Squeezing mass into the middle of ordinary days has forced me to learn how to lay everything from the smallest concerns to the biggest anxieties, on God’s altar, which has in turn helped me learn how to better see God at work in every ordinary moment. Taking a regular share in these services has helped me bring more of my life and myself to God.
Saying mass in a small chapel with only a few people also offers a powerfully intimate encounter with Jesus. Sundays are full of conversations and laughter, music and people, and it’s all joyful and good and holy. But the quiet weekdays help keep my heart tuned to God’s still, small voice. Returning again and again, in the midst of the ordinary hectic day, helps keep me pointed toward Christ, the morning star, the true north for our souls.
Sticking with this practice over the years has continued to remind me that the church’s main business isn’t producing or achieving anything. Saying mass day after day, when almost no one comes, reminds me that as disciples of Jesus, we are not called to accomplish and achieve, but to simply offer ourselves to God, to place daily on the altar of mercy our worries, our joys, our failures, our loved ones, our enemies, our life and our labor, “ourselves, our souls and bodies.” Liturgy isn’t useful or constructive, it isn’t worth doing for large numbers and not worth doing for small numbers. Liturgy, and the Christian life it enables, is about showing up for God and offering our lives to God.
These simple daily offerings provide a gentle, quiet, spiritual heartbeat in the midst of our city and our diocese. There aren’t many people in downtown Omaha who take notice of what we’re doing at noon on weekdays. The saints who live and work across the plains and in the towns of Nebraska certainly don’t often think of their cathedral and its little weekday offerings. But two or three disciples are at the altar almost every day: praying for ourselves, praying for our city, praying for the churches and communities across our diocese, naming them and their clergy out loud before God, asking God’s blessing on their lives and ministries, thanking God for the gift of our connections across time and distance. I trust that spiritual heartbeat is, in God’s mystical economy, pulsing and resonating in the souls of those we pray for and with.
So even though not many would notice or care, and as much as it would make it easier to get lunch, I don’t think I will discontinue our weekday services. As a cathedral church, they are an essential part of our vocation to pray without ceasing for the life of our city and diocese. As a priest, they irritate me into remembering what I was ordained for: to lead God’s people in offering our whole lives to God, and to help God’s people join the river of love that constantly flows from God and back to God, moment by moment, day in and day out, world without end.