Today is the feast of St. John the Theologian. We were blessed to celebrate with the brethren of a local monastery who have St. John as their patron.
I am in love with this monastery. The chapel there is my favorite Orthodox church anywhere. It’s not big, showy, or magnificent. It’s simple, homey, and a bit disorderly. It reminds me of my own decorating style. Everything kinda sorta matches. Everything sorta maybe goes together. There’s not really enough room. There’s a tad too much stuff in every corner. Ah! It looks exactly like my house! I feel totally at home there. I can’t name or fully explain the reason I love it so much. But I can always pray there. Without distraction. Without earthly cares. Without knowing if I’m in heaven or on earth. It’s perfect.
Fr. Alexander preached today about pilgrimage. Going to the monastery to pray and receive support from our fellow pilgrims. Going through the pilgrimage of life with direction and focus. For this around us is not the destination. It isn’t really where we’re going, you know.
God bless my husband who let me go to the Vigil alone on Saturday night. Five and a half kid-free hours of praying. At about hour number three, my heart and the rest of my body collectively asked, “What on earth are you doing to us?” Through God’s grace, the moment passed, and as I gazed on the face of Christ, I thought about prayer. Sometimes I think that I need these kid-free moments to pray…but it isn’t true. It is indeed a nice treat on occasion, but as any mother knows, even when you’re away from them, the little boogers are all you ever think about. They are my life. They are my prayer.
St. John is a Saint who is like this cozy chapel. He isn’t flashy. He was there at the beginning, the middle, and the end, though. One of the first called. Present at the Transfiguration, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. Author of five books of the Bible. Caretaker of the Theotokos. The one who proclaimed that the Word had come. I strained this weekend to hear the words. To see the Word. And I glimpsed the peace. I saw the beauty.
Sometimes I wish my life was a monastery. Such neatly divided times of prayer and work. Get up. Pray. Work. Pray. Work some more. Pray. Pray some more. Go to bed. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Of course, monastic life is not idyllic, and it doesn’t matter if it is anyway. It isn’t my life. There’s a different plan for me. Different in time and space and place. But shouldn’t my life have the same basic structure? Get up. Pray. Work to teach the kids. Pray. Work to clean the house. Pray. Work to clean the house again, since it immediately got messed up. Pray. Pray some more. Go to bed. Do it all again tomorrow with joy in the struggle.
Sometimes, unfortunately, my life is more along different lines. Get up. Pray. Work. Get distracted. Forget to pray. Get overwhelmed. Hurry through prayer. Choose to ignore more prayer. End the day in a scattered, empty heap. Go to bed. Do it all again tomorrow.
If this chapel looks like my life in the externals, I pray that it will be my life internally. A mish-mash of everything brought together with a single focus. A hundred burning flames. A single, driving fire. A great work. A great prayer. A song. A melody of words. A life of one, light-giving Word.