|Holy Saturday morning. We enter the church as |
catechumens for the last time.
I have to at least try to write this out. It has been my experience that writing can't do this sort of experience justice. I can't let myself forget this, so if even a single phrase I write can recall the essence of what I have to say, that is enough. You might think I would start from the beginning and tell the story starting with our final act as catechumens. I am working on that. This is an out-take.
One of the plethora of my trivial concerns before Baptism was this: I worried about how we would 'make it' through the entire Divine Liturgy. We had never done it before. From our first Liturgy, I left at the dismissal of the catechumens and at least Rome left with me. One time I stayed in a little too long, unable to remove Rome without disrupting the Great Entrance. I felt so out of place there, kneeling low to hold Rome, that I never let it happen again. I did not belong there in the Liturgy of the Faithful.
So, back to my trivial concern. How could we 'survive' the full length of the Liturgy? After leaving each time I always took Rome into the hall where we could hear the Liturgy and draw or read. I felt there was nothing I could do but wait and see, but it did not keep me from mulling over this worry occasionally as we approached Holy Saturday.
In every way, something unexpected happened. This alone is a great reminder that nothing is ever as we plan or expect. Worrying is a futile attempt at control.
Holy Saturday was perfect. The most perfect day. For reasons I will have to detail in the start-to-finish version, I had let go of all expectations that morning and was truly ready for Baptism. So, we were anointed, Baptised, and Chrismated. We put on crosses. We processed into the church holding Father's stole. Around the tomb three times. We held candles. The Liturgy continued. The service was 4 hours long (including the Baptisms) but it felt like just a moment. We went up to the cup.
When we ate the dried fruit and wine after the service, I was not tired. I felt brighter than ever.
Pascha was much the same: the energy in that service had us all wide awake and smiling, from 11:30pm to 5am. I have never seen anything so beautiful and may never again, unless it is more Pascha. Our second time approaching the chalice, amazing.
The real surprise–I see I have delayed here with clunky words– was Bright Monday, Bright Wednesday, and Thomas Sunday. I rationalised the speed of the services on Holy Saturday and Pascha- those were truly special days for me and it seemed no wonder they flew by. But Bright Monday was a hard day, just me and 4 children at church. Instead of being gruelling, it flew by like a single moment. We had barely arrived when it was time to walk up those stairs. Even at a new church, Holy Trinity on Bright Wednesday, it was like this. And yesterday it finally occurred to me, this is something. It is not the excitement of Pascha. Something has happened here, because instead of a service twice as long, I experience something more fleeting than before.
Even more amazing, of the time I experience as passing, most of it is the span of time from stepping to the cup and stepping down. My children go before me. While I am making sure they are in line properly and kissing the chalice everything is 'normal'. Then I step up. My mind knows that it only takes as long as Father takes to say,"Newly Illumined servant of God, Tabitha, partakes of the precious and holy Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting." The experience cannot be understood by the mind. Time stands still. I feel like I am teetering on a moment. There is a sense of longing and suddenness, at any moment this seeming spell will be broken. It is like when something falls off a counter. The time it takes to reach out and catch it is stretched. When you do catch the thing time begins again and you are left with a jolt as you rejoin the stream of time.
When I step down my hands shake, time begins again. I am left with a wondering thought- How long was I up there? Even, subtly, Where am I?
I told Father. It was at his suggestion that I write this down and not forget.
This is who I am. Nothing else.