April 14, 2014
L is for…
…Lent without church.
It was not intentional. I know my responsibilities as an Anglican. Certain events in the church are known as days of obligation—meaning you’re supposed to go.
But I missed Ash Wednesday this year. I missed the beginning of Lent.
It wasn’t intentional, as I’ve said. But scheduling and timing and traffic all conspired against me, and I couldn’t make it…and I’d missed my opportunity to go to an earlier service closer by at an unfamiliar church…and while I could have attended an even later service at a church near my house, it was the service my freshly unpartnered partner of 18 years was attending, and perhaps God disagrees, but I felt I needed to give space and give place.
And so I sat at home and felt bad, wrote, made phone calls. I wasn’t stricken dead—I knew I wouldn’t be. And anyway, no matter; I would go on Sunday, as usual.
Except I didn’t.
I didn’t go to church on the first Sunday in Lent. I think I slept in, exhausted. I think I stayed home.
I didn’t go to church on the second Sunday in Lent. I think it was more of the same. I was in the mood to drive and see the coast, so I did, never really alighting anywhere to write.
I didn’t go to church on the third Sunday in Lent. I think I got up in time, but moved so slowly through my breakfast and newspaper that I ran out of time. And anyway, I had just spent hours the day before at a parish quiet day, in which I’d done some good discussion with God, good reading, good writing. I just made it to the Sunday matinee play, though, and then wrote at a bar with a friend.
I didn’t go to church on the fourth Sunday in Lent. I was meeting for coffee with another friend whom I hadn’t seen in two years, and whose babies I adore, and our time extended far past what we’d planned.
I didn’t go to church on the fifth Sunday in Lent. I was driving back from my spring break trip, back from paradise with precious dogs in tow, returning them to their master. I had just had a surprisingly unpleasant brush with solitude and isolation, and the rest of the long drive was spent crying and praying, sobshouting with God, and long-talking with humans.
I didn’t go to church on Palm Sunday. I had a tax appointment that went long. But I made it to my writing appointment at the nearby British pub.
Today I find myself at a Holy Week silent retreat at St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo. I attended this retreat a year ago and found it quite beneficial. I have a little more hesitation this year, given that brush with near-madness in enforced separation over spring break; given that I’ve spent an entire Lenten season not really observing any disciplines beyond the food-, movement-, and writing-related disciplines I’d already taken on; given that I’ve not been attending church.
However, I’ve found, for whatever reasons, that I’ve been communicating with God more openly, more honestly, more frequently than I have in…well…perhaps ever.
I haven’t gone this long without experiencing the grace of the Sacrament (Holy Communion) in many years. Today, at the Abbey’s noonday mass, I partook for the first time in over six weeks. Nothing magical happened—I didn’t think it would. But it felt right; and because I believe the Sacrament is grace, it is grace.
And along the way throughout this churchless Lent, I have found that grace comes in many forms, through many different conduits, and from many different directions, if only I am paying attention to see it.
I talked with a friend this morning before leaving for the retreat. We were talking about how love is such an inadequate word to convey all that it actually entails. She paused for a moment, then came back:
“Well, there is one word. It says, Stop looking. And just accept. And that’s grace. […] No, grace is…grace is powerful shit.”
Indeed it is.