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As for me and my house

Each of our parish sanctuaries is a kind of Noah’s Ark. The Lord has called you to take refuge in it, even as rising waters buffet, rock and flood the earth. In fact, your sanctuary-ark is in some sense the very place of your salvation.

This is a concept particularly easy to grasp at Mass during a thunderstorm. Going back to Origen, Cyprian and Jerome, the Church Fathers cited Noah’s Ark as a “type” and “prefiguration” of the church. Here we are, holed up together in this ship: and while we will all disembark in about an hour to our cars and schedules, in a more ultimate sense, we dare not leave it. We are bound together, mysteriously called and summoned to this place of refuge.

I will never find words that capture the gratitude I felt on that day I was welcomed into the ark at the Easter Vigil in 2001. Soon after, the doors were shut and “all the fountains of the great abyss burst forth and the floodgates of the sky were opened” (Gn 7:11).

But that was long ago. Now the ark’s pitched seams and joints are leaking and the whole thing heaves and reeks with mounting piles of excrement. It’s so dark and dank and loud. Noah is a just man and a fine grower of grapes, but I resent this entire gopherwood contraption: his ark lacks even the most basic ventilation or sanitation.

That’s how it’s been of late. One recent Sunday, my family and I gathered again in our increasingly smelly little corner of the ark. I was slouching, barely mouthing the words of the “Gloria,” and lost in an expanding litany of complaints in my head. I felt seasick. Noah’s rations for us that morning had come to us stale. I wondered, does Noah have any idea how bad things have become?

Then on this recent Sunday, Joshua’s words rang out: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (24:15).

Summoned from a near slumber, I sat up straight. Those words are carved on a board that has hung in our kitchen throughout the 17 years of our marriage. I first memorized the verse in elementary school, and its power jolted me, like a hidden or forgotten strength. I glanced in the direction of my wife and children, and straightened up further. The kids seemed to stir.

As for me and my house.

Yes, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. No matter the stench of this time, we will serve. No, we will not turn back to the empty and powerless gods we have visited in years past.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord in the ways that he has so faithfully drawn near to us over the decades: the morning offering, prayer before meals, evening prayer or rosary, examination of conscience, singing together as a family, and blessings and prayers before bedtime. In times of health and sickness, happiness and sorrow, these moments have welcomed the Lord into our house — and will continue to do so. My presence to my wife and children will be of a higher caliber, by God’s grace.

“Our hearts have not shrunk back,” I will affirm with my house, “nor our steps turned aside from your path, though you thrust us down into a place of misery and covered us over with darkness” (Ps 44:19-20).”

As for me and my house, we will one day — in God’s providence — look back on this time and recall how we held our heads high even as the waters swelled and crested. Together there in our little corner, no, we were not robbed of our joy. We did not barter away our pearl of great price. We did not turn to false gods.

We turned to the Eucharist. Our Lord placed a new song upon our lips. We grew closer to one another, and to Our Lord, who surprised us in the darkness with his nearness. We redeemed the time. We prepared for the dawning of a renewed covenant.

Johnson is associate director of the St. Thomas More Institute.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018