I was up late last night. At 3am I was washing the dishes and the countertops after the last guest left our housewarming. Everyone was asleep already and I was tired but awake. When I looked at the clock and saw it was 3am my first thought was, “that’s got to be wrong” and my second thought was, “I wonder if it’s daylight savings time.”
I’d wanted to go to Liturgy in the morning and this pang of stress hit me. I’ve been getting these off and on for the last couple of years. Technically, it’s heartburn or reflux and I have a pill for that when it strikes. Rather than being triggered by my weight or my food choices it’s triggered by stress. When it rises up I try to instruct myself to pray. I place my hand there, on my chest just below my throat and I breathe deep. I address that fear, call it by name, assure that fear that we’re okay. It’s all ok.
When I opened my eyes this morning and reached for my phone chided myself for staying up late and I considered the next time I was going to be in town on a Sunday to attend a Liturgy. The comment of a protestant friend ringing in my ears from the night before. We had been talking about when I expected to bring my kids to church. I said that I needed to feel settled first in the service before I could attempt it. “You’ve been doing this for a year now, how long is it going to take for you to feel settled? Is it that complicated?”
It is. And it isn’t, of course. This was good though because it forced me to amend that statement. I need to feel some connection, make some commitment, to a community before I can usher them all into an Orthodox Liturgy. And then I missed St John’s in Nashville a whole lot because I know that I had just reached that place when we moved.
It was surprising to see the time when I looked. It was only 8:00. I got up, showered and dressed for church before having coffee. “If I’m dressed,” I thought, “I’ll go.” So I did. I kissed my husband and my kids goodbye, checked my list of communities I’d wanted to check out and I left. The old aimlessness kicked in right then. Which way…with churches West, North and South of me. I started North and changed my mind, headed South and ran into the marathon which detoured me West.
Assumption is a beautiful old church. The service was nearly empty when I arrived. I was the youngest person there by about 30 years I reckon. It was almost entirely in Greek and the choir sung all the responses. I was a spectator. It was weird.
As I looked around the church I noticed it slowly filling, still, I remained the youngest person in the room and the only woman not wearing a skirt. It didn’t bother me all that much. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else.
I wondered about this aging congregation and their absent responses. I drifted into judgement and cynicism. I wandered away from the sacred until the bells on the censer drew me back. I thought about Father G telling me the story of the old priest in Greece who saw angels, he’d change direction while walking through the altar area to keep from walking through them and then every person in that room became more than an elderly attendee of this place.
Suddenly they were all angels to me, tent holders, temple builders and I thought to myself that maybe it was the prayers of these people, like the prayers of the monks throughout the world, the kept us all tethered to the Holy. Maybe it was the prayers of these faithful that held us all together in a world that shifts so readily.
And I was comforted. I gave thanks for these people and the unseen work they were doing, the work they may not even fathom in this moment.
As is my custom these days, I snuck out the back near the end. I went to my car and wrote some notes to myself, about the tethering, the tent holders, the unseen and deep work not yet manifest. It was about then I noticed the huge Greek school attached to the church. I remember reading about it but wasn’t sure if it was still connected. It occurred to me that there were NO children in the service. Even as I ducked out near the end, the church had fleshed out and yet no kids were present.
I looked up their website on my phone to check myself and saw that in the chapel they have another service at the same time, a “sunday school liturgy.”
I briefly considered searching for the chapel or going back in and asking but I didn’t. I think I know why I was there, in that service today. It seems right that I was there. And I know something else too, it’s time I made phone calls to the people who offered to walk me through some communities in Chicago. It’s time I moved toward the people aspect of this whole thing. This hit or miss, leaning on my radical independence thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Truth is, I need the flesh and blood for my own tethering.