I co-led a retreat this weekend. It’s a retreat that I developed and organized called The Wise Woman. I’ve been leading this a couple of times a year for the last 5 years and it has always been intense, difficult, rewarding and spiritually focusing for me.
The retreats in Chicago are mainly driven by a friend of mine and I come in and do my “thing.” I read a lot of my favorite poets, talk about the body/spirit connection and then I help create a safe place for women to talk about the Giant in the Road as it were. What stands in between me and the One who made me? Sometimes it’s not just one Giant. Sometimes it’s a series of smaller, seemingly manageable giants who link arms and block our path. Depends on the day, the hour, the weather…
I never sleep at night when I lead these. The stakes are high. Women entrust their heart to me and I never take that lightly. As I lay in bed the first night, thinking about the way things were going so far I felt a real sense of peace, release, trust. Still, I didn’t sleep.
As I lay in bed the second night, thinking about the way things had unfolded that Saturday I felt a real sense of peace, release and trust…but only as they concerned the participants of the retreat. There was something nibbling away at me that night and it was about our Liturgy on Sunday morning, more specifically, it was about communion.
I hadn’t spoken with my friend about this. She knows I’m becoming Orthodox and she’s been appropriately suspicious and tremendously supportive. We hadn’t talked about communion though, not yet. When she made the assignments for Liturgy I was glad to see she’d left my name off the list of those who would lead communion.
Because I’m not yet chrismated there really is no conflict for me to take communion from this table. I’d not be breaking any rules. It isn’t that I felt unfaithful or that the process there was invalid. The conflict was in me. It was about not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, not wanting to appear judgmental or uncooperative. As I pondered it, laying there, I saw this Giant in the road to Orthodoxy. Am I really ready to be a part of a tradition without an open table? Can I subscribe to this?
What came to me around communion as I lay there was sudden and clear. Choosing to be Orthodox means that I choose to view communion differently than many of my non-Orthodox friends. It means that I understand communion as sacrament, more than bread and wine. It means that communion has a very clear and specific place in my life. It’s an event that I will hold in high regard, that I will treat with all the reverence I can muster. It’s something I am working toward even now as I consider chrismation. My participation in the communion table at my retreat means that I suspend that understanding of the bread and the wine and that’s a choice I can still make.
The next morning as I sat in the circle of women I felt no struggle. I felt no conflict. I had decided that I would wait and listen and act out of a place of peace, not out of people pleasing. And it was simple right then, looking at the table I felt like a vegetarian at a steak house. I don’t eat this dish. I don’t condemn you for it, I don’t hold judgement for the people partaking, but this isn’t my food for the journey anymore and then I was sad. I’m still without sustenance. That’s my choice and circumstances and in fact, temporary I think. There will always be a Giant in the road, there will always be a way around, even though it may take some navigation.