It comes at the perfect time of the service, after we sing the Beatitudes and the gospel is read. After the homily and during the service of the Eucharist. It comes when my mind has started to wander and the worries of the coming week begin to creep in.
The choir leads us in what is called the “Cherubic Hymn” and we sing this phrase “Now lay aside all cares.” It is part of a longer hymn but this is the phrase that challenges me, draws me in every time. It’s repeated twice – for needed emphasis. This phrase beckons me, calls me out, asks me if I can, for this short period of time, lay aside all those things that bother and irritate, all that causes pain and sadness, all that causes confusion and anger – can I lay all of it aside? Can I come to the Eucharist with body and mind fully fixed on the eternal?
Each week this calls me – Lay aside all earthly cares.
Some weeks I do this willingly, so glad to drop my backpack of burdens at the feet of Jesus. Other weeks I hold tight. Worry and earthly cares are clasped in my tight little fist like a child grasping tight to something that will hurt them. During the first time we sing I still want to hold on, but by the second the words soak in and I begin to release. It’s as though God takes that small act and works with it, accepting my paltry attempt at release and honoring it.
Lay aside all earthly cares – who else says that to me all week? Who else gives permission to rest, release, focus on the eternal? It’s a rhetorical question for the answer is obvious. No one. The only time that I am outwardly and verbally given permission to lay aside these earthly cares is Sunday morning when earth meets Heaven in the body and the blood of Christ. I would be a fool to hang on. And so I slowly release the tight grasp I have on all things temporal, on all worries and fears that haunt and threaten to destroy, I lay them aside for this time and a small sigh escapes my lips.
“Now lay aside all earthly cares” – it’s not a suggestion, it’s a command. And so I do.
When do you lay aside all earthly cares?