Saturday, May 17, 2008

Getting Comfortable with Peace

There is a little chapel on the grounds of the retreat center where four services are held each day:

Matins (the morning service to greet God in the new day), Mass (a service at noontime where they “celebrate the Eucarist”, aka "The Lord’s Supper" or "Communion"), Vespers (a service just before dinner to meet with God at evening), and Compline (a service to close the day with Him).

When I made arrangements to come on this retreat, I didn’t think I would attend many (if any) of these chapel services. They are optional for those here on retreat, and frankly, I thought I might find them boring. Interestingly, though, I have attended all of them, so far! They are not boring at all, but quite meaningful.

This surprised me because I was raised in the Episcopal church until I was 16 years old, and I generally found the order of the Episcopal church service very boring and ritualistic. It seemed that in the liturgy of the service, all of the meaning leaked out. I found it devoid of true passion for God, and an unnatural way to worship Him.

However, this retreat has changed my view. The services are only a half hour or less, so they don’t seem overly long to me. The responsive readings of the Psalms and of the liturgy now appeal to the actress in me. I no longer see them as just words on a page, but as words of life to speak to one another, ripe with meaning and even love.

Part of the Mass included “The Prayers of the People”, which is a chance to pray for different people in the world and in your life—from government leaders to your own family members. They came to the part when you can offer prayers for the sick. During this part of the prayer, you can say out loud the names of people who are ill and need healing. “My Dad,” I said out loud, tears filling my eyes.

Soon the prayer was ended with an “Amen,” and the priest said, “The peace of the Lord be always with you,” to which we all responded, “And also with you.” Then came the part that I often dreaded growing up. That uncomfortable part where you have to turn to the strangers around you and “exchange the peace”, which means shaking their hands and saying “Peace be with you.” Today, though, I just felt so full of gratitude for having a place to pray for my Dad. A place to lay down my burdens. A place to remember the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross by taking Communion. I turned to those around me and realized that I only needed to give that uncomfortable feeling a small nudge to get out of the way. Then we hugged each other with heartfelt gratitude for each other’s sheer presence, and mostly for the presence of God. Our very own Prince of Peace.


Dana Cheryl said...

Thank you for taking the time to write about such a profound and deeply spiritual experience. Truly it is a blessing on this the Lord's Day. And as a stranger please allow me to join in your experience by offering... peace be unto you. I drop by "your place" from time to time although this is only my second post in a year. My intention was to thank you for posting about The Cutest Blog on the Block. I zoomed right over and got my own very cute background! I'm grateful for your research and even more grateful for your willingness to share about your relationship with the Savior. I truly felt the Spirit as I read your post. A beautiful and powerful peace came upon me as I read your words. How unexpected but wholly welcome and much needed!

May God bless you and keep you always!

With Gratitude and Christian love,

J at said...

Peace be with you, Starshine, and Hubs as well. :)

Autumn's Mom said...

How wonderful!! This is amazing to us but J and I attended church together for the first time on Sunday. He's seeking a potential job there. It was wonderful to enjoy experience with him and I'm really excited about this journey. it's funny you mention the exchange the peace part. That too has always been a struggle with me...and the only unfortunate thing this Sunday...was that they didn't encourage it! I was all ready for it and it never happened!