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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Silence Broken

I sat in a church wreathed in incense this weekend, yet it wasn’t a high holy day.  Their processions run backwards – or ours do.  My textile hungry eye has been trained on the brocade of a phelonion instead of a chasuble these past weeks.  Funny thing is, we spend more of the liturgy sitting, here in this place, than we did in our Anglican church--although the people sitting near me wouldn’t suspect much standing from folks with their toes not far from the Tiber. We live in Christian neighborhoods different, yet inexorably tied to a past unity.  One thousand years of precious unification- did they know, those first millennium Christians, that they lived in a golden age?

We were here, in this same place, some eighteen years ago.  Elyse was about two, I imagine.  She played in the aisle, under the gaze of icons, with a boy child, a bit older than she, as his older sister looked on.  I’m pretty certain I’ve spotted him—towering over his preschool height, although I don’t see an older sister, so the accuracy of my recollection is anyone’s guess.   Much time has passed, yet, here we are.  I knew we would be back, but I hadn’t known my face would be quite so lined by the time that occurred, or that my toddler would be twenty before we passed through these doors to pray through an Orthodox liturgy again.

I reflect upon my husband’s fortitude.  Born into the security of Mormon culture, with clear expectations for how his life would unfold, he surely wouldn’t have expected that a crazy girl with an obsession for historic Christianity would turn his orderly world upside down.  He surely never expected, while an ocean away and knocking on the doors of annoyed English people,  to receive the anointing of Confirmation at the feet of an Anglican bishop one day.  And yet, we married on the seal of an agreement that we would seek after truth like a wolf pack upon prey.  I don’t think he realized incense would be on the air as a predator's nostrils sought their treasure. 
Eternity Veil EVM19 in Cream on Black Embroidered Net

About six months ago, my very Anglo-Catholic fingers typed a quick note to someone, to ensure that she was aware that we were not Catholic. She had set up a group that required Catholicism for entry, and had invited me to it.  We have always been aware that Anglo-Catholicism can look an awful lot like Catholicism, and have regularly spoken about the nature of our religious affiliation on the blog, to provide clarification for those who would be concerned about such things.  Still, we occasionally run into a customer or reader who is surprised to discover that we were Anglican.  Usually, it doesn’t impact the relationship negatively.  Certainly, lace is lace, and spiritual reflections are spiritual reflections—regardless of whether the fingers that weave them lean toward Rome or Canterbury, or as in our case at the time, hang somewhere in a balance between the two.  This particular relationship though, took a distinctly different turn once the revelation was clear.  Since then, I have wondered whether sharing of our personal lives is beneficial to readers.  I have also wondered whether I had anything at all to share, if it were not myself. And so, I've been silent – for about six months now. 

As I reflect on those six months, though, I see clearly that they were not a happy ones.  I am nothing if not a writer and a crafter of thoughts and of swaths of lace that fall on the heads and hearts of praying women as they grapple through the dark forests of life, grasping for God.  I would like to be someone stable, with a secure foundation and a straight path, that others could follow.  I am not though.  I am a woman who has been on a long trek full of twist and turns.  

Copyright Elyse Bychek, 2013
And so, I cannot lead.  I can barely keep my closets organized.  But, I can continue to stand beside you on this journey.  I can continue to pray for you by name as my fingers glide over lace that will rest lightly and embrace you, as you seek God in prayer, across continents and languages.  I can continue to share our lives with you as we work out our salvation.  I can continue to walk alongside you in a desperate search for union with God.

It is then, time to write again.  I’ve missed you.  I suppose you’ll be hearing a very different sort of story.  The teacher of Western liturgical tradition that used to visit with you over a cup of tea is now lost, an infant, somewhere near Jerusalem and wondering how to relate to all of the Catholic garden statues lovingly gazing at her through her kitchen window with one eyebrow raised and smirks on their faces.  Some of you will leave, surely; each of us must be true to our journey.  The rest of you ought buckle up, I suppose – it may be a bumpy ride.  Nonetheless, I’m glad you’re here to share in the experience.

Pax Christi dear ones,
Latin or not—I've been sending you my love with those words for too many years to be changing that signature.

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  1. It's about 1:00am in the morning where I live and your post just came in. I had wondered if we were the same person there for a second in my reading of it. A few differences such as a) being a guy, b) it was a Greek Catholic liturgy I was in this weekend as opposed to an Eastern Orthodox liturgy but both being the same liturgical rite, it's pretty darn close, c) it wasn't since years I had gone to it, it was since about two months, and d) I was explaining to everyone how it wasn't Roman Catholic instead of it just not being Catholic in general.

    Other than that, I find myself wavering quite a bit. I, like your husband, found security in an Evangelical Protestant Church for quite some time before I eventually switched to attending the Evangelical Covenant Church (okay, not exactly the same as "Mormon"). But, like you, I have always experienced difficulties relating agnosticism with attending these churches. I started going to the Greek Catholic service and enjoyed it at first but then realised my agnosticism was still there and I didn't know what to do with it. So I pretty much broke down and now I have an icon of the Ever-Virgin, a prayer rope, and rosary beads that I had blessed this Saturday evening at the Vespers and not really certain a) how I relate to them but b) more importantly, how I relate to God.

    If you don't mind, I'll quote you at this point:
    "I would like to be someone stable, with a secure foundation and a straight path, that others could follow. I am not though. I am a [man] who has been on a long trek full of twist and turns."

  2. Michelle, I am SO glad that you are blogging again, and I cannot wait to read more about your journey and your continued spiritual reflections! You are such a treasure to all of us.

  3. Can I also say how absolutely stunning that black and white veil is, holy cow!! I think this is going on my wish list. :)

  4. Wow, such an amazing testimony! And I have missed you, friend. Sometimes seasons have to take us far away from what feeds our hearts so we might find our way back home. Welcome home, then. :) Lovely words and images.


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