In the first few months after I first began receiving the Eucharist, I had quite a few very moving experiences at Mass. By convert Jennifer Fulwiler.
I’m not a person who typically feels God’s presence (when I first read about the signs of spiritual dry spells, I was confused since that was basically my default spiritual state), and so I was thrilled to finally experience God this way. But after a few times of feeling overwhelmed with happiness and excitement during Mass, I would go back to church seeking that—the experience.
On more than one occasion I would stare at the crucifix with longing, but it wasn’t a longing for Jesus. It was a longing for those big emotions I’d felt the previous Sunday. I was a junkie, and Jesus was my dealer. I was happy to see him not for who he was, but for the “high” I wanted him to give me.
Dr. Kreeft points out that this is why the Eucharist is such a perfect way to encounter God: We get all of him, his full self, and our feelings about it are a completely optional part of the package. He writes:
We long for joy, and He tells us that He is our joy, and that He will be in us Himself, not that he gives us joy. (Jn 15:11) He is not a means, and our joy is not the end. That is idolatry. He is the end.
Dr. Kreeft then recounts a famous saying about Fact, Faith and Feeling walking along a wall. Fact goes first, then Faith, then Feeling. If Faith would just keep his eyes on Fact, they’d all make steady progress. But Faith keeps turning around to see what’s going on with Feeling, and he gets unsteady. Faith and Feeling both end up tumbling off the wall, while Fact walks on alone.
Now that I think about it, I’m thankful for times like Palm Sunday when I don’t feel much at Mass. Those teary-eyed moments when I’m overcome with emotions are wonderful; but with them comes the temptation to turn them into idols. When I don’t have Feeling walking behind me, I just put one foot in front of the other, steadily following Fact.
This is going to be one of my main topics of prayer as we begin Holy Week. I’m going to work on loving Jesus for who he is, not for the experiences he gives me. And if this small spiritual dry spell continues through Holy Week and into Eater, I’ll give thanks for it, because it is a much-needed reminder that, in the words of Dr. Kreeft, “He is not a means, and our joy in not the end.”