“I’m exhausted” I whisper to my husband “Do these people never sit?” We were attending Divine Liturgy, a service that had my husband’s face raised to the Resurrection Icon with a look of holy expectation, a service that had me shaking my head thinking “why can’t I sit?”
Orthodox churches differ in how many pews they have, but a common characteristic in all of them is that you stand. A Lot.
And I’m not used to standing, unless I’m speaking at a workshop. In fact, my body isn’t used to much discomfort. Too cold? I put on heat. Too warm? I put on a fan or go to the ocean. Too tired? I lay down. Too hungry? I eat. Too angry? I vent.
In a word, the world I live in is ‘comfortable’. I don’t say ‘no’ to self on a regular basis.
And that’s where my mind ends up going – thinking about how quickly I physically get uncomfortable and want to ease my discomfort. About how much I have to learn about giving up self, giving up comfort, focusing on worship and love of my Lord. The discomfort and agony of the cross is textbook discomfort for me, theory that I’d just as soon dismiss rather than shudder through, rather than really face.
If there is one thing I am learning on this journey toward Orthodoxy it is this: the church will not bend for my comfort. This strikes me as a startling revelation. So much of church shopping today is done according to comfort. “If I can’t go in my shorts, holding my large Hazelnut Latte, then it’s not the church for me.” is a quote I have heard in various versions in diverse areas of the country for the past 10 years.
And yet here I am in a church where comfort is not high on the agenda. Neither is creating an atmosphere that will make your local coffee shop aficionado feel like it’s their ‘place’. Rather, I am participating in a service and pursuing a faith that speaks in awe and reverence about the saints and their posture as they head toward their deaths. A church that hasn’t changed much since the first century. A church that invites me to look at worship in a new way. It is a church that takes the words in the book of Philippians seriously: “That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death.”
I am in a church that stands in awe, prostrates in reverence, fasts in remembrance.
And so I stand, and I open my ears to listen to the words I am hearing from the a cappella choir, I begin to pray that I will stand with strength, that my reluctant heart will be drawn beyond the weakness of the physical to the strength of the eternal.
Lord Have Mercy on this soft, squishy, reluctant Orthodox.
- The Reluctant Orthodox – Volume 1 “Ten Years Ago”
- Elder Sophrony: Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany (afkimel.wordpress.com)
- Cradle of Hope Coptic Christians dont let worry for Egypt take their joy (news-journalonline.com)
- This surprising 50-foot-tall Orthodox church in Antarctica is manned year-round… (slate.com)