We came home to cats who missed us, and as I write, the larger one, a male tabby named Laddie (who is just a tad overweight) has climbed into my lap, demanding the missed hours of attention.
We have come home after being away. We rested on our vacation, staring at the sea and reading and writing, walking the shoreline, listening to the surf, inhaling the tropical aromas of jasmine and plumeria. Our world for the last two weeks was all blues and greens with splotches of fuchsia and orange and yellow. The first week the sun rose from the sea; the second week the sun dropped into it. Sunrise or sunset, the sky was painted with filmy strips of pink and purple and tangerine. We became spoiled with sky; we became spoiled with tropical breezes; we became spoiled with fruit and fresh fish. We probably ate too much and will have to eat less now.
Our away was bracketed by home, by real life. Now on the other side of the brackets we plunge into the minutes and hours of daily routines. We work through mounds of mail, pay our bills, respond to correspondence, do loads of laundry, do all the things still undone. We left a network of family and friends, and now return to them, re-entering love as we share their sorrows and their joys.
Our away time allowed for more prayer for there was more time away, time to reflect, time to praise, to give thanks. Upon return, I thought, I would continue that constant glorifying, keep it in my mind and heart so that Christ would always be with me.
A clergy friend occasionally walks the streets of his neighborhood, full cassock, praying the “Jesus Prayer” – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner, Amen. Why, he was asked, was he doing this. His answer was interesting. He didn’t say he had certain prayer intentions – that crime be lowered, that this neighborhood convert and come to his parish church, or that his Aunt Martha be healed. He may have prayed those prayers as well, but his purpose as he walks the streets of this upper middle class suburb is to make present the Holy Name of Jesus.
The Holy Name of Jesus.
I’ve thought about that ever since, and wonder if I could bring the Holy Name of Jesus to public places. My husband and I have begun saying grace (quietly) in public and making the Sign of the Cross, showing gratitude for every meal given. It is a small public witness but one I rarely see. And I am ashamed to say it has taken some courage to do so little. Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, as we are told to do in Baptism and Confirmation?
We have come home to our own crucibles, our own challenges. And in that movement into real life we bring those prayers, that time spent with God, and allow home to be mended and nourished by our time away. We listen to the joys and sorrows of friends and laugh and cry, all the while knowing Christ is with us, laughing and crying too. The God I prayed to on the edge of the ocean is the God I prayed to this morning in my little parish church. He has not changed, only I have, having drawn closer, closer to the center of his cross, his heart.
And the real center of his cross, where his heart beats, is my real life, my home, not my away. I can hear his voice and feel his beating heart sometimes better when away and I bring the hearing home with me. But he is always with me. His constancy is unbending, unalterable, unending. He is life, and life without him is death. He is love, and love is everlasting, eternal.
As home wraps about me and comforts me with its warm familiarities, it is also a hurricane of changing winds and weathers, the doings, the goings, the comings, the business of living and loving.
I woke this morning with severe lower back pain and decided there was no way I would be able to go to church. Then I decided to take one step at a time. With each step I prayed, they will be done. If you want me there, dear Lord, you had better help me.
And he did. The pain slowly eased enough to move. I made it to church. I was able to see friends and check on the babies in the nursery, admire the finished Children’s Chapel with its lovely old carved altar and wonderful tapestry hanging. In the main church I was able to pray before the Mystical Presence of Christ. I was able to gaze upon the crucifix, and become one with Christ in the Eucharist. I gave thanks.
My away and my coming home became one.