I think I may be the most Orthodox Christian Pagan woman I know. Okay, I’m the ONLY Orthodox Christian Pagan woman I know. Or have even heard of, though I’m sure there must be more like me – male, female or otherwise. I used to be a card carrying Orthodox Christian. Though I liked choir, I preferred chant. I loved the quieter services like Orthros and vespers; Lent was my favorite season with all its inward focus and oodles of time devoted to prayer. There’s just something about Lent that does it for me. I guess it’s that draw to contemplation and emptying…. Aw, who am I kidding? If there’s even so much as whiff of “The Divine was here” I’ll be all over it like white on rice! I don’t much care where it’s located: church, sex, trees, New Age book stores – none of it matters a whit so long as I can encounter even a small scent of the Divine.
It just so happens that the Divine has a habit of playing “Tag! You’re it!” with me in Orthodox churches. Must be some kind of crazy juju in the incense they use. Every time I get a whiff of it, I feel at once like bawling my eyes out and like I’m home. It’s a bit disconcerting at times, really. And yet, like seeking out the Divine, I find it comforting. Like it’s the one place on the planet that’s safe to let go of everything, set any and all burdens aside and have a safe haven to fall apart. Completely. Just completely crumble into a pile of rubble, seams and all. I spent about half of liturgy today with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the chalice without rivers welling up and flowing me blind. No particular reason, I just cried each and every time I looked or even focused my attention in that direction. The tears came from deep within me, like I have a well that needs purging and is overflowing.
The tears don’t always happen at church, but they’re pretty much a guarantee there. I’ve had experiences in other places – home, work, driving, where they have spontaneously started flowing, sometimes with an ache of longing for the Divine, sometimes when something particularly poignant occurs: a homeless person begging on the side of the road, rainbows, someone looking pinched and hurried trying to get to where ever they’re going. But church is a dead ringer: I walk in the door or even just pull into the parking lot and tears will come. I wondered briefly when the tears would stop, then realized I didn’t care if they flowed forever. Whatever it is, it’s not necessarily about me, my needs, my desires and I’m okay with that. I don’t need to have answers. My answer has become as the Theotokos’ (that’s Mary, Jesus’ mother for those of you who don’t know): “Let it be done to me as you say.” Complete and utter surrender to the Divine. Scary? Yeah, sometimes. A lot of times because I have no idea where I’ll be lead and often can’t see even where to put my feet next. It gets dark, but it’s a bright darkness; I am never alone. I make my way by trust, by faith. But then again, I found home right under my nose just when I didn’t think I was looking for it. So I’m good.