Chester Gap is at an altitude of 1,339 ft (408 m) and it separates Warren County from our own Rappahannock County. It is also the dividing line between two parishes of the Diocese of Arlington, our St. Peter’s and St. John the Baptist. During the Winter, the Gap presents a hazard to those traveling from Washington, Virginia to Front Royal. The road can be icy and treacherous. It is a hazard that many of the sheep in exile must negotiate on a weekly or even daily basis.
These days, Chester Gap is also the dividing line between to ways of thinking about the Roman Catholic Church. On the Front Royal side of the Gap orthodoxy prevails. On the Washington side there is something different. This weekend I once more encountered that difference in thinking.
Saturday, my wife and I attended Mass at St. John’s. The homily was an informative and inspiring discussion of the meaning of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Many, many points of Catholic doctrine were intricately interwoven, all leading to a renewed and strengthened awe of this sublime Mystery. The discussion of what my wife and I heard during the homily lasted all the way back to Sperryville and continued through dinner. We took to heart the relationship between the Trinity and the family. We reflected upon the intense love that is active within the Trinity. Yet, we acknowledged that, indeed, the Trinity is a Mystery with a capital “M”. We will never understand, but we will believe.
Sunday morning, I attended the 0830 Mass at St. Peter’s. Once again, solemnity was absent. In fact, the Trinity was absent – at least it was absent from the homily. Father talked about the “commission” given at the Ascension, but he did not utter the word Trinity. The only mystery that was present at St. Peter’s this week was the mystery with a little “m” – the mystery of why our Pastor chose not to speak about the Trinity.
If it had not been for the fact that the Collect and the Prayer after Communion included the word Trinity we would not have heard the word at all at St. Peters. As I said, once again solemnity was absent.
Even the recessional hymn was a disappointment. While St. John’s is usually a two-verse parish when it comes to hymns, on Saturday they made sure they sang all three verses of O God Almighty Father. Lately, St. Peter’s has become an every-verse parish. This week, however, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we only sang verses one and two of O God Almighty Father, leaving out the verse about the Holy Spirit. I guess the Holy Spirit will have fend for Himself on this side of Chester Gap.
So, now it’s time to return my trusty, deceased steed to his stall. He’s a good old chap. He takes my abuse without so much as a mild whinny. If he could speak, and truly that would be an unusual thing for a dead horse to do, he would assure me that the road to the status quo ante at St. Peter’s is surely very long. With that great mutual understanding between us, I will continue beating him and he, of course, will remain dead.