It is certainly an exciting time to be in Washington. As I’m sure you’ve all heard, the cherry blossoms bloomed this week, bringing plenty of tourists and chaos to the D.C. area. I’ve been down to the tidal basin a couple times already to see them before they leave. There was a big fireworks display on the mall last night to celebrate the cherry blossoms as well.
It’s also Easter Sunday, an exciting time to be anywhere. I visited Washington with my parents when I was 13, and on Easter Sunday we went to Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at the Catholic University of America. It’s the largest Catholic church in the Western hemisphere and holds the title of basilica, meaning that it does not fall under the jurisdiction of an archdiocese, but under the Holy See. I figured I’d go back there again, to see the beautiful church and experience the madness as hundreds of tourists flooded in for Easter Mass.
The Church is absolutely stunning. It’s built in the style of a Roman basilica, so it’s shaped like a giant cross and has a big dome at the center. The walls are covered with statues and other decorations as well as shrines to the Virgin Mary. At the front of the church is a shrine to the Immaculate Conception. On the wall behind the shrine is a muscular, angry-looking Christ, holding his arms up to heaven.
I arrived at a scene of total chaos in the church, as the folks from the 9:00 Mass tried to squeeze their way out as the people attending the 10:30 Mass tried to wriggle by and find a good seat. It calmed down after a little while, but the church was packed. Even with such a large space, there were still people left standing. The whole Mass felt a little chaotic. There were people walking up and down the aisles, kids trying to get out of the pews, and ushers trying to keep everything orderly.
The music at the Basilica was top notch. The first thing I noticed coming in was the organ. It was beautiful, and at some points it sounded like an electric guitar. It was very cool. There was no choir, but individual singers lead various hymns and prayers. The cantors were some of the best singers I’ve heard yet, and the organ accompaniment made their voices that much sweeter.
The priest had a short and simple message today. I think he was trying to keep it short so the Mass didn’t run too long. He said that today is a day of rejoicing Christ’s rising from the dead. He reminded us of Paul’s message from the reading, which was that Christ gives us a new birth and a new life, and that we should “set our hearts on higher values.”
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
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The Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin:
Churches I've Visited So Far:
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