As a child, I remember seeing pictures of angels, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. I remember being inside of amazing churches, and chapels. There was something so peaceful about sitting inside a quiet church as if God’s arms were wrapped around me. I felt totally and completely safe. As if there was ever something terrible to happen outside of the church while I was in it, I would be completely protected and saved by the arms of God.
I have given up on finding the right religion. There are so many denominations out there but nothing seemed to resemble what I would have thought to be the religion as close to how it was when Jesus was here. I have been born Roman Catholic but I did not attend Catholic church. My family attended Quaker Fellowship when we came to the United States. It was a very peaceful and quiet way to worship. They sit in a room for one hour in complete silence, not exactly a way to teach about what I needed to know. The people there did not teach me much. We read a few verses in Sunday school but that was it. My parents were very busy making this new life for us in the United States and as much as they loved God and Jesus, they were private with their prayers. They did always remind me to love Him. I have actually given up searching for The church and shrugged it off saying, “When I die, Jesus will teach me the Truth because it’s been so twisted over all these years.”
One day I met a monk who changed my life forever. Something about him pointed me to discovering Orthodoxy. I never imagined, this religion, Orthodoxy, which holds so true to when Christ was here would be the most difficult worship I would ever have to learn. And I wanted so much to learn it.
There is so much singing and chanting and praying. So many prayers, a gazillion songs, ways to bow, prostrate, venerate, light candles, walk, bow etc, etc.
My heart struggles in so many ways. How can I do this right and still be loved by God? How much I so truly want to do this right. He deserves the best. There is so much to learn. Some of these people have not even been in the church as long and they seem to know every prayer, every song. Here I have in my hand, a book that a dear friend of mine puts together every week. I have read the songs in the book countless times and I can’t seem to follow them. It’s a vowel matching game. When I hear a song, I hear the vowels. (See previous blog called “Music” ) It’s difficult to be in the moment because not only am I playing the vowel matching game but I am also looking for my two very young children all the time. It is one thing to be a hearing mother looking and disciplining her children. But it’s another to be a legally deaf and legally blind mother doing the same. I can’t open my ears to listen while I discipline. I must look in the book and hear some vowels then find where we are in the service.
The church really is full of children. It appears that 2/3 of the congregation are children. My children sometimes do not stand where they should so I am looking for them. Sometimes I think my son talked loud but it was another child so I might discipline incorrectly. Sometimes I mistaken another child for my own. If I need to take my children out for misbehaving, I need to scan where the other children are. I certainly do not want to step on them. It’s almost like walking through a mine field. I am trying hard to scan a free path while holding the hands of two wiggly ones. Kind of like looking for a path through a pair of binoculars.
The bows and prostrations can be confusing. Some bow and some don’t . Sometimes a woman bows and I think I need to as well but she is just disciplining her child to behave. Sometimes it’s a half prostration but I am ready to drop fully to the ground. Then halfway there, I realize it’s a half prostration so I pretend to pick up something, like an earring and “put” it back in my ear.
We kiss icons at the church when we venerate. Sometimes i don’t feel the distance between me and the icon so I whack my head in it, fearing I may be the next one to break the glass. Sometimes in the narthex they won’t turn the light on, and i can tell there is an new icon placed there because of what the frame feels like , or perhaps it’s just the blobs of large areas of colors I see, and I don’t know the saint or can’t identify the saint. So what follows is my proper venerating with the improper prayer of “Saint, whoever you are on this picture, pray for me. ” And there are the candles. It’s a miracle they do stay upright in that sand when lit. But oh how long and thin they are. I am nervous I might hit one by accident and burn the church down.
During Lent there are so many services and most of them are at night. They dim the lights and I cannot even see my service book well. The prints in the books are small, the chanting can be fast paced, or really slow, so I play the vowel matching game again. I do not bring my children to the evening services as I will never be able to see or find them. Standing in a very dark room trying to follow a service actually makes me well up. I want to cry. How can I show God how much I want to be with Him, to be in his Kingdom if I can’t learn in a dark room? I should go to these services but look at me. Oh God, look at me. I stand here foolishly, so lost, how am I going to do this? No, I can’t walk away from this. This IS what I have been searching for my whole life. I try and collect myself not to look so silly. I am a grown up so I need to try and have some self control. I wouldn’t want the attention towards me and cause any trouble. So I breathe, try and play the vowel matching game again and continue.
Yes, there are great challenges for me. So one would think, why not switch to a church where it’s easier. Yes, I could very well do that but I never felt in my heart that churches should be customized to personalities. Maybe it’s the most difficult way for me to worship. It’s okay. It’s worth it. I will make it through. My heart is guiding me along the way. I found the path Home.