Nearly two years ago I had this plan; take some Orthodoxy classes, learn a little Greek, find my baptismal certificate and get chrismated in time for Pascha. It didn’t happen that first year along the road to Orthodoxy so I changed my plan, second verse, same as the first…best laid plans.
May 2012 finds me a catechumen in a new city, in a new community and I think I understand now, some general failings in my initial plan. Prayer and fasting, examining and polishing the “nous” are vital, certainly to the Orthodox christian but community is central. When I first started the classes in Nashville I asked Father G about the “next step” and he said, “Come to Liturgy.” I didn’t, I was busy, I couldn’t, I didn’t know anyone. For months I managed to avoid coming to Liturgy.
Now, having allowed myself to be adopted into a community in Chicago finally and having scaled the cliff side to bring my children to Liturgy for the last 7 months or so I understand better what Father G was asking. I understand now that to be Orthodox without attending Liturgy is like calling oneself a runner without once ever getting up from the couch. In Orthodoxy, we’re always in a state of “becoming.” I can claim the tag once I’m chrismated, I can check the appropriate box if asked, I can make a pronouncement that this is my narrative of choice but it means little without practice, without community. Without Divine Liturgy, Orthodoxy has no real life context for me.
I’m discovering this, I think because in these weeks following Pascha our family has been on the road each weekend. We have not been able to attend for at least the last 3 weeks and it’s a strange feeling. I feel I’m missing something and of course, I am missing it. I’m missing the life of the body we’ve just begun to know, I’m missing the instruction I so need and desire, I’m missing the routine my kids and I need to be able to feel the rhythm of the mysteries. Absent these things it’s hard to understand what keeps me coming back, which of course makes me wonder about 1)my sanity for even attempting this crazy task and 2)whether Liturgy offers some kind of drug I crave…which of course, it does. No matter how I might medicate myself outside of the practice it never moves me forward the way this does.
I have this strange sense and it’s still very much in the “scraping the surface” stage, that there is something lurking here, under my skin and my bone, deep inside of me. I have this sense that there is some great mystery, inside of me, outside of me, like air that I forget I need, like air I forget exists until it blows a little across my arm. And I think I know how to get there, to find that mystery, to sit with it and let it be and let me be and breathe it in. I think I know, in quiet moments, still moments, what that looks like, I remember how it feels and then before I can wrap arms around it, it is gone again, or…I am gone again. And in Liturgy, I find that moment, that stillness and in the middle of the crazy life I have right now, even just 30 seconds of this is enough to sustain me, enough to hold me, enough to keep me coming back and enough to remind me of what I’m missing and how far yet I have to go.