TITLE: MASS ON A HILL (Rewritten)
By Gabrielle Morgan
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MASS ON A HILL (Rewritten)
In the vast plains of the Australian wheat and sheep country farmers have carried the burdens of the land over generations. They have fought for subsistence against nature’s harshest demands leaving their mark embedded in the soil of their labours.
I was privileged to live amongst them for a short time and was witness to their unfailing faith.
It was summer and the heat was intense. At the end of the day a Mass was to be celebrated in the graveyard on the hill as designated by the Church Calendar for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. I went along.
The priest had set up a table as an altar, covered it with a white linen cloth, and placed it on top of a granite slab over one of the tombs. The farmers were seated on chairs in the pathways between the graves. I sat with them, aware that I was not connected, but merely a newcomer to their land.
The sweet smell of dry grass permeated the air and only a faint breeze disturbed the stillness of the evening. Peoples' voices ceased as their attention was drawn to the Priest, now dressed in his white vestments ready to begin the Liturgy.
“How many of you have relatives or friends buried here?” he asked.
Almost everyone put up their hands.
“Is that so?” He nodded appreciatively. “Then this service will have special meaning to you all.”
It was very evident he was right; the congregation responded to his homily and words of prayer with deep concentration of mind and spirit.
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me along the right path;
He is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
No evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
With these you give me comfort.”
The Mass progressed and people quietly filed up to the priest to receive Communion. They returned, heads bowed in prayer, the quiet only broken by the sound of crickets chirping and the bleating of sheep in the surrounding paddocks. Echoes of the past penetrated their thoughts; they remembered loved ones, now gone, but still very much present with them.
A deep sense of communion with the dead and an awareness of the transitory nature of life became apparent, all startlingly tangible in an environment which was so much part of the beauty of creation.
When the Mass ended, no one was eager to rush away. They, each with thoughts of their own, preferred to quietly pay reverence to the departed around them. Nothing interrupted their peace.
On that warm evening, somehow, God had touched them in a very special way.
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