I spent this morning at my first Easter Mass. It is also my last one as a non-Catholic, and I think that weighs on me in both good ways and difficult ways. I’m very attached to the Father’s homilies. He has a way of speaking that is both soothing and comforting and also firm. He has a way of getting his message through to you in that lovely, gentle way. Whether I agree or not with every one of his homilies, he is consistent in his tone and basic message, and he has a way of bringing a caring place to every conversation. He uses a lot of anecdotes and humor in his sermons and it is in those that I can see myself. I can relate with both sadness and joy depending on the emotion pulled up with his words, and of course, think about things and make plans of action as realization takes hold in my mind.
Today, of course, the Gospel was of John and he compared it with the other three Gospels. John had faith; he just believed. He didn’t ask where Jesus was when the burial tomb was empty; he simply knew that His words had come to pass.
Faith is one thing that I am consistently lacking. I have a friend like John, who leads his life by faith. I look to him for my inspiration when things go horribly wrong or wonderfully well. What would my friend do? Would he moan and complain about it as I would do? No, he wouldn’t. His example made me ready to hear Jesus’ words and really listen. When the Father spoke about a Red Steamer Trunk, and too many things in it, I easily saw myself. I like my things. They don’t have to be fancy things, but the important things mean a lot to me. My frog, Bob. My friend’s tea cup. The rock from Dolwyddelan Castle. The cross I received from the church on the first Sunday of Lent. The picture of my kids, and the note from my husband telling me everything would be alright. Except for the tea cup, these travel with me everywhere, every day. The story of the red steamer trunk made me think about the rest of my things that I have, but that aren’t as important and I’ve tried to make some decisions based on whether I want to carry a heavy oversized trunk that I will never use everything in or a smaller backpack where everything is a necessity.
It’s hard to change a lifetime of habits.
It’s hard to walk away from things that were once so very important to my daily existence; my emotional safe places. But they were binding; trapping me in layers upon layers of someone else’s important.
The very first homily I heard from Fr. J was on May 7, 2012. He was just back from his sabbatical in Rome. I wasn’t sure I liked him. He was different from the other priest who I’d grown accustomed to in the previous two months. But I took a deep breath and I gave him a chance.
He talked about his visit to Rome, the places he visited, the places he prayed, the Pope and other things that moved him. He reminded me of how I speak of Wales and I was drawn in by that comparison right away.
He began then to talk about the spirit. I know he meant the Holy Spirit, but how many of us who do not follow the tenets of the Catholic Church believe in fate and destiny and something like a spirit that moves us in one direction or another. It’s really not such a foreign thing. I’ve always believed in that and in something bigger than me. And so, when he began to talk about the spirit moving him, I felt the spirit, the one that brought me to the church in the first place, the subconscious poke, a light at the end of the tunnel for me, and as I continue to follow it, it is still hard to form the words around the feelings.
Halfway through this service I was crying – it was so emotional on a subconscious level.
Today was much different. Part of that is the different place I’m in. My brain chemicals are stabilized mostly. I have some goals for the rest of the year. I have a stronger faith and a spiritual goal as well. As I finish my first Lent, I’m pleased with myself. I did not ‘cheat’ once, although I did accidentally have a tiny bit of bacon mixed into a tasting on a Friday. And the cheating is only on me; no one else cares if I ‘made it through’. But I do care. I struggled very little in the last forty days, and I think a lot of that had to do with my reason for abstaining.
I did it for me, and only me. I didn’t do it because someone said I needed to, or because I had to, or because I should. I did it because of the deeper meaning behind abstaining and keeping the fasting days, because I believed in where I was going and this was one way of cleansing myself before the Easter.
This was also the first year that I understood why Easter is a happy holiday. Realizing that it is not a celebration of Jesus’ death (that is commemorated on Good Friday), but a celebration of His eternal life in heaven through His Resurrection. It sounds so simple now.
No one explained it to me, but attending the Masses up until today, and reading the extra things that I had been reading, it brought a greater understanding and commitment to the church for me.
Today was children laughing, wailing about the long service, wheelchairs, crowded pews, bright light, candles, colorful banners, music and instruments, trumpets and violins, the choir loud and proclaiming, hands given in peace and love, hugs, warmth washing over, and above all, the true meaning before I go home to chocolate eggs and a turkey to be put in the oven with kids searching for Bigfoot in the woods and a teenager calling home and actually wanting to speak to his parents and siblings.
It is a good day.
And so I do what I’ve been doing daily since Lent began, and what I’ve tried to do practically since I was born: Write.
I posted about my success these last forty days, but the success isn’t only in the numbers (which surprised and impressed me), but in the daily. In the needing to. In the pen to paper and clattering of keyboard.
I know that a lot of my writing this month has been either faith based or Supernatural, and it is actually surprising that they really do go hand in hand, at least in my mind. I won’t bring too much of the show into this now, but one of my loves for the show is its metaphor and of course, it’s take on some religious mythos. It says some of what that I’m afraid to say, but it also lets me think.
Still, I’ve always been one to hide my faith and I find that similarity in Dean Winchester. Wanting it, but not quite believing it. Needing something, but seeing things that contradicted that faith. Keeping a talisman because it’s the only thing he has to believe in.
Whether I was afraid to admit to being Jewish when Jewish was different or not wanting to bring it up when there are other more religious Jews in attendance (or in a chat room) because I feel judged (and never by them, but the feelings are still there). I grew up doing things so much differently than even my cousins who lived next door. Now, part of that were our parents’ ages. My cousins’ parents were my mother’s aunt and uncle, and so they were from a more religious generation. But I was raised in a very follow the traditions household. We changed our plates for Passover, but we didn’t throw away all of the bread. Bread went into the freezer and we didn’t eat it, even when we would eat out. (Wendy’s is a good place for Passover – great salads, no croutons.)
I didn’t like being different, especially when I was supposed to be the same.
We observed all of the big holidays and some of the smaller ones. We didn’t go to services, but we celebrated Chanukah, lighting two menorahs – one electric and one candlelit. We didn’t say the prayers on the side of the candle box, but we didn’t get a Christmas tree even when Christmas crossed the threshold into secular American holiday and all of the children were dating Catholics.
I still don’t like to stand out, but turning forty-five clicked an off button for me, and now that I’ve gotten it back on, sorted out (at least in diagnosis) my medical-mental health problems, fell into the deepest pit I’d ever been in and then pulled out, and had life turn upside down for friends, I’ve started to speak out.
I’ve started to stand up. And the church is part of that, both in the turning the switch back on and in giving me something to think about and write about and feel.
When I started going to church, I hid it from everyone except my therapist and my Facebook. The thirty people on Facebook were my support system, prodding me, encouraging me, hugging me, and they guided me through last spring as I found my way along the catacombs of a new religious feeling.
Being told by the priest that Jesus had been Jewish and I was welcome in His house was overwhelming and so devoid of the usual condescension that statement is usually attached to when spoken to me (at other times by other people). He never asked me to be Catholic. Not once. Of course, he was very happy when I came to him, but I had been attending Mass daily with him for more than seven months at that time. I didn’t, but I could talk to him. I was received warmly by my fellow churchgoers. People who didn’t know me took my hand and introduced themselves to me. I didn’t feel strange asking questions. They never asked why I didn’t know very basic things.
When the Father would announce the opening hymn and sound like an announcer at the train station (Please turn to #53 in your Missalette, that’s #53, five, three, in the Missalette, #53), we would laugh together despite the feeling of irreverence. When he had a ‘private’ conversation with a parishioner with the mic on, we wondered if we should tell him, but soon realized that the conversation wasn’t private and the Father was having some fun with us.
From the first day, sitting in the pew in tears, I was warm with the feelings of the Spirit and Christ floating over me. And whatever else was going to happen, I was okay. I never stopped coming after that.
Easter is renewal. It is rebirth. It is the Resurrection. It is the reminder that all things are forgiven, and more importantly, not that I will be forgiven, but it gives me the strength to forgive those that have wronged me or the people I love. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
2013 is a new year for me. Things are clicking into place. (I hope.)
This Easter is my first real Easter. I understand it and I feel it, and my old life is gone, or at least it’s in a box in a corner of the room and I need to see what it is I want to bring forward with me into this new life without completely dismantling the old one.
These moments are meaningful; more meaningful than things used to feel. I put myself out there, much more than ever in my entire life. It’s scary. It’s new. I need to do it. It is part of my rebirth and the rest of this year is part of that journey. I will probably share it with you.