Turn

What do you do when God tells you to do something? I know. This is crazy talk — God speaking and such stuff; doesn’t happen anymore, and those to whom it does happen are completely irrational. I don’t blame you for thinking, I can see why this woman stood in an Orthodox service “seeing” things; she’d already gone way round the twist.

All I can say for the moment is I believed I had been told to consider seriously the things of the Eastern church and to do so humbly. I knew it was God who “told” me this, even though I didn’t hear a voice, even though the message was rather complex (as well as simply pointed in one moment) and had been building up for a long while out of my assessment of reality as it was being presented to my mind and heart.

If you can read further after such a statement, I’ll set us back in the midst of the service known as Vigil. I hadn’t learned yet that the service’s name meant (among other things) there was a Vespers and a Matins included. I wondered at one point why the candles were blown out and a man moved near the front to read from the Psalms.

The Bible I know. The words of David are dearly familiar. I’m with him, when he writes so poetically of despair and of hope, of pain and of trust in the Lord his God. Gratefully I listened.

Then the candles were relit and the choir resumed chanting. And every time I thought we might have come to a natural stopping place, the service continued. My feet grew sore afraid this would be their last stand. All the while, though, I heard strains of stories, weavings in and out of pieces I knew from Scripture.

I didn’t stand up the whole time, just most of it. I noticed some men across the aisle sitting for a lot of the service. I think I felt self-conscious and wanted to show I could sort of participate, as I understood participating right then — also I knew Timothy and Nina were standing with the choir. I wasn’t yet aware of the reality in Orthodox services. As C.S. Lewis once described it, “the beauty of [attending an Orthodox Liturgy] was that nobody took the slightest notice of what anyone else was doing.”


The feel of hiking, I decided at last, was the same sort of feel of this experience. Not knowing what was around each new bend, pressing myself to keep going — not through fear or anxiety, because (who’d have believed it?) I was drawn into the “terrain”, the “view”. I was hearing about the prodigal son (as the choir continued their chanted stories) and then would come a strain about “children” who were cast into a furnace yet weren’t burned. I recognized both those tales. Like a mountain peak mirrored in still pools, the acquisition of beauties came upon me. I had been as a midwesterner who’d never embarked from a wilderness trailhead, following others, amazed at the details of an adventure impossible with camera to fully capture.

Unlike my dad, who after his first youthful day fishing up the McKenzie was forever hooked, I remained in standby position regarding the Orthodox “chorus” and its possible implications for my universe. I had a lot of thinking to do. I should say, I had more possibilities to consider inside my little self than a bee who bumbles upon an alpine meadow in full bloom.

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