While at the lectures I had some free time on Wednesday morning, so I took the recommendation of Dana (offered in one of her comments here) to drive north from Malibu to Ventura to check out the San Buenaventura Mission. I love old churches and have never visited a Spanish mission. So that's what I did with my free time at Pepperdine. While most people went to the beach or hiked in the hills and canyons, I drove north to visit a historic mission.
I arrived around 9:30 in the morning. The gate to the garden was open so I went in. I was alone, had the place to myself.
It was a beautiful little Moorish garden with a fountain in the middle. Sitting there listening to the birds and the water I noted that the door to the church was also open. So I wandered in to look around.
The chapel was empty. It was dark, with the morning sunlight cutting paths through the air. I could still smell the incense from the morning Mass. I went down to the front where there was a large crucifix on the wall.
After lighting a candle for a friend, I sat on the front row.
The old kneeler creaked loudly in the silent space, with a big echoing knock when it hit the floor. I knelt and took out my prayer book for morning prayers.
As I prayed--moving through the psalms, the collects, the readings, the Lord's Prayer--I kept looking up at the figure of Jesus looking down at me.
I noticed his knees, a distinctive feature of the chapel crucifix of San Buenaventura Mission. You expect to see blood associated with the Five Sacred Wounds, the wounds to Jesus' hands, feet and side. Those along with the blood from the Crown of Thorns. But the body of Christ on the cross at San Buenaventura Mission has two more distinctive wounds--bloodied knees. These would be the wounds associated with Jesus' three falls, three of the Stations of the Cross.
I finished the prayers in the prayer book, but didn't want to leave. I was alone in the chapel and wanted to linger. Wanted to keep smelling the incense and watch the morning sunlight come through the windows. I wanted to keep looking up at the crucifix. So I keep kneeling.
I took out my prayer beads. I used the beads to repeatedly pray the ancient prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."
As I kept coming back to the word "mercy" I started to weep. I wasn't sure where the tears were coming from. Maybe I was tired. Maybe it was the place. Maybe I'm a sentimental fool.
But what slowly welled up inside of me was this acute sense of my sin. My vanity, selfishness, rivalries, envies, judgments, insecurities, impatience, pride. It all got pulled to the surface. This vision of who I am and how this isn't who I want to be.
And so I wept, and prayed for mercy. While the figure with the bloodied knees looked down upon me.