Today it has been raining almost all day. It rained most of the night, too. It was the sort of day where you want to wrap yourself in a cozy blanket, hold a cup of tea, and sit before a warm fire. But we rarely do that on Sundays. First of all, my husband is a Deacon and so we are obligated to attend Sunday Divine Liturgy. But more than that, our Sunday would seem hollow if we did not get ourselves out and off to Church. So off into the rainy day we went. I have often posted photos of the interiors of Churches and I tend to favor those with candle-lit scenes. The one above is one of my favorites; the Icon wall. In our parish we are blessed with an amazing array of icons and our Iconostasis (the Icon screen that goes across the altar area) is beautiful. We are also blessed with beeswax candles! Many parishes use the thin tapers, but they are not beeswax. I feel blessed that we have them. As I lit a candle each for the intercession of the Theotokos and Our Lord, I stood before their icons, bathed in the mystery, the awe, the solemnity of them. But I was also awash in my other senses. I could hear the rain spattering along the roof line and into the downspouts. Everything smells wonderful when it rains. And I could smell the incredibly aromatic beeswax candles. Trust me, if you have never experienced them, they do make a difference. The light they emit and the scent surrounding them is heady and enhances the whole experience. So instead of snuggling on my couch with my blanket and cup of tea, I was surrounded by the essence of my faith in sight, smell, and once morning prayers and then Divine Liturgy began, the sounds of my faith. It was truly a morning of heaven on earth!
I have used the above photo quite often, too. I truly believe that a large part of our faith is the faith we experience in our community. As I stated in my post of the Dormition, we come to our faith in a corporate way, as part of a larger community. Even if you have a “born again” experience as a Protestant, it is normally within a faith community; the community that brought you to that pinnacled moment in time. I am often asked, “When were you saved?” I have pondered it many times and have come to the conclusion that my salvation is a process. Yes, I have come to know and experience Christ in my life. I am blessed to belong to a Byzantine faith where encounters with Christ happen quite regularly. My personal encounters have been shocking, sublime, timely, and extremely profound. And they keep coming. Each time I am in contact with that moment where Our Lord touches me, I am deeper into my relationship with Him. I am blessed in that.
Today, after Divine Liturgy, I met some wonderful women. One of the women in our parish is an incredible soup-maker. Today she provided the parish with broccoli soup that was so incredible, with warm bread to accompany it. As we sat around and gabbed, enjoying our soup and the company, I realized how much I would have missed had I chosen to remain on my couch! My faith was enhanced and I met some wonderful ladies, and enjoyed some incredible soup. Our conversation was as edifying in many ways as our experience during Liturgy. Because when you sit and talk with people and share your faith, you serve God. His kingdom is solidified and strengthened when you share your faith with others. There was so much wisdom at that table. I find myself sitting with the widows and older women, rather than the younger moms with small children; I suppose it is because they are closer in age to me, but I am not sure. I do chat with the other moms who have children, as I have a teen still at home, but I sure enjoy sitting with these older ladies. Today I shared the concept of “Holy Silence” and also the concept that “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives” and it generated a lively chat. Since most of them have numerous children and grandchildren, keeping Silence is often not something they think to practice first! I was praying the entire time we chatted and I loved their insight and wisdom and I think they gleaned something useful from me, as well. Experience…it is truly a great teacher.
I am glad that I roused myself and went off in the rain to Church. I came away edified and strengthened. Father’s homily today reminded us of our great responsibility for our own faith. God waits for us; He does not force us to welcome Him into our hearts. He invites us to experience Him in our Church, in our fellow Christians. We may not all worship in the same style or the same environment, but we are all believers of the True Faith. Our corporate experience of the Divine makes Our Lord more present to each and every one of us…together and in solitude. Let us also remember those who gave up everything, and are still sacrificing for their faith. They are part of our faith, too.
In our Silence, which I do try to practice as much as I can (being a homeschooling Mom, I am often relegated to moments of solitude to keep Silence. Those are the moments when I choose Silence over distractions or chatter and are sometimes the only quiet I may have in a day) we commune with God and are part of the Church Militant – those of us still here, combating evil and seeking the Divine. We share in the state of this militant Church through our prayers, our actions, and our thoughts. Let us hold one another up as we struggle to combat the evil in this world. Let our common experience as a community strengthen us on our personal roads to salvation, as well as helping each of those we come into contact with on their own journey towards the Divine. Some areas of our world are rife with war and violence; there is little of the Holy Silence available in places where gunfire is more common. Let us all unite in our common faith, holding up the Church Militant and conjoining the with the Angels and the Saints in the Church Triumphant.
I know I am glad I got off that couch this morning and enjoyed Our Lord and our community, celebrating the gift of the Divine in our lives!!