It’s 9:38 am on any given Sunday and I’m at church–or rather, I’m physically present at St. Elizabeth’s but not yet “there,” if you know what I mean. Ideally, I’d have spent the previous ninety minutes or so in quiet prayerful anticipation of the communal worship I was about to enter into, as opposed to yippin’ and yappin’ at my younguns with the hair in need of brushing and sometimes surly attitudes in need of adjusting.
And it certainly would have been lovely to have arrived ten minutes early and caught a bit of the matins service preceding Divine Liturgy, instead of screeching into the parking lot with but 30 seconds to spare before our priest kicked things off with, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!” But my life as a mother of four rarely caters to my preferences, thus here I stand in a cloud of incense reciting the Beatitudes, still trying to harness my wandering and frazzled thoughts (“Did I turn the iron off? Oooh, chicken stir-fry sounds good for dinner. Maybe that missing library look is in the back of the van!”).
It’s really, really hard to ignore them, to not engage them. It takes everything in me to tune out the noise of my runaway mental impulses and digest the enormity of what is taking place all around me: Christ is in our midst! And that truly is my ongoing, overarching battle – to somehow cut through the fluff and fog buffering my body, my spirit, my mind from the intensity and demands of a life lived fully for Christ, Christ as Love. I’d drift unknowingly into a comfortable lukewarm state of blasé-ness without the Church. Without the Church and Her sacraments, mystery, iconography, hymnology, antiquity, martyrs, saints to help lift my gaze up from the media-driven, materialistic mire, I’d merely pass the time instead of seizing it – making every second count.
We are about halfway through liturgy when our priest comes out from behind the altar reverently carrying the gifts, the bread and wine that will become the body and blood of Christ. He bows to us and we bow to him, singing, That we may receive the King of all who comes invisibly upborne by the angelic hosts. Oh my gosh, I think then, this is so much bigger than my fears, selfish desires, dinner plans and unsightly shortcomings. What’s happening right here, right now is unequivocally more real, more important, more fulfilling, more victorious, more consequential than absolutely any and everything else.
I participate in (or maybe “cling desperately to” would be a more accurate choice of phrasing) the life of the Church to stay mindful of the fact I have a soul in need of saving. The Church is a hospital and I am sick. The Church is my ultimate source of healing. And as a very thankful member of the Church, the Body of Christ, I’m called to present to Her my first fruits, my God-given gifts, as a sacrifice.
Eric Henry Liddel, winner of the 1924 Olympic men’s 400 meters race, and inspiration for the movie Chariots of Fire, was once quoted as saying, “When I run, I feel His [God’s] pleasure.” I totally get that. From the tender age of eight, I’ve been putting my ponderings down on paper. Writing has consistently been my ever-present hobby, and my primary method for coping with the good, the bad and the ugly.
When I write to be noticed, respected, appreciated, I find zero joy in it – only pride and insecurity (two troublesome sides of the same tired coin). When I write as a means of prayer, however, or with the singular goal of spreading light, love and hope, I too feel God’s pleasure – a deep satisfaction. Writing is what I know, is what calms me. Writing as a means of communion with the living God is my widow’s mite offered meekly in faith. That Christ can utilize my meager gift, despite my abundant weaknesses, to break through complacency or despair and pierce hearts with His mercy is nothing short of miraculous. It will take a concerted effort on my part, however, to keep my eyes on the prize to the very end. Get behind me doubts and self-serving intentions! I’m busy dying to myself in order to thrive. My computer keyboard and I have much significant and salvific work to do!
We have finally arrived at the pre-communion prayer. My head is lowered and my arms crossed submissively in front of my chest in anticipation of being fed by the Holy Eucharist. …of Thy Mystical supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant, I pray aloud with my parish family, for I will not speak of Thy Mysteries to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss but like the thief will I confess Thee. Remember me, O, Lord in Thy Kingdom. And I am fully here. I am fully present. I remember now from whence comes all enlightenment, grace, fortitude and yes, even my drive to write and create.
I may be a pen, but Christ is the ink. Only by emptying myself, of myself, can His Truth, His words, flow through me.
Molly Sabourin is a writer, podcaster and amateur photographer who reflects primarily on issues pertaining to family, faith and community. She is the author of “Close to Home: One Orthodox Mother’s Quest for Patience, Peace and Perseverance.” Molly blogs regularly at http://mollysabourin.typepad.com.