Yesterday, whilst in the car on the way to church, I turned on the radio in order to press the “Aux” cable button that connects to Jesse’s phone. This way, we can listen to Jesse’s latest Itunes downloads, instead of the trash that dominates the radio stations.
What blared out at us was Britney Spears’ newest song. All about lust and living just for the moment.
While being a)musically disgusting and b)lyrically challenged to the “ength degree”, the song got me thinking. There is a sort of virtue to this type of hedonistic paganism. We are supposed to always being living in the moment, enjoying what God has given us this day instead of only looking forward to the future. As Christians, we’re supposed to be living our lives for Christ, but I think it’s so essential to our happiness to realize that we don’t have to wait for Heaven– the Kingdom of God is here and now. To “wait for death” in order to experience Christ is to miss Him completely.
This virtue of being able to live day by day, completely in the moment, seems counter-intuitive for me. I want to be planning ahead. I’m always afraid of being short-sighted and of simply slapping a quick fix bandaid on a problem. I hate regret, and so I often live in fear of making the wrong choice, doing everything I can to have an (over) informed opinion about everything in my life.
But that’s not what we’re called to do. It’s a constant battle for me, which is why I chose the patron saint that I did when we joined the Orthodox church nearly 4 years ago. Martha was running around, preparing for the future– Mary stopped and experienced a relationship with her Lord and Savior. For some people, this comes naturally. For others, like me, we have to really work hard at it, banishing thoughts of the future that only lead to resentment. As Fr. Joe told me in confession last night, “bitterness really boils down to resentment. Resentment is one of those sins that we actually have a lot of control over. It’s a choice, not something we are doomed to.” He went on to explain that the more we live in the moment, the less we resent. There isn’t room for resentment when you are busy enjoying the day that God created for you. There are enough people to serve, enough people to love, enough tasks to be done, right before us. When we miss all of these opportunities because we are worrying about tomorrow, we miss Christ.
Once again, Fr. Joe was right on. Even when I go back and re-read my post from a few days ago, the words “bitterness” and “plans” were virtually inseparable. I’ve been making myself miserable over things that haven’t even happened yet! I’ve been disregarding the beautiful things of the here and now in favor of misery over the future. Because we are finite beings, we only live in the here and now, and thus, can only be ministered to in the here and now. When I choose to occupy my thoughts with fear over the “what-ifs”, I am also choosing to ignore the comfort God has given me in the here and now. I already have an “overarching” trajectory for my life– love God, love my neighbor. Why make it more complicated than that?
Yesterday, as we were enjoying our Saturday afternoon together, Jesse put on a podcast of Fr. John Braun (co-founder of St. Barnabas) speaking on the liturgy. One of the parts that really stood out to me went something like this (in crass summation–I’m not great with exact quotations off-hand): “If the divine liturgy isn’t really divine– that is, if we aren’t actually singing with the angels, actually experiencing the heavenly mysteries, right then and there, then the whole thing is really rather silly and ridiculous! Priests, running around in elaborate heavy robes, smoke everywhere, no instruments to be found, lots of fuss and attention over bread and wine. No– it is because we truly believe that we are in heaven, worshipping with all of heaven, that we can make such bold claims.”
I love that it’s so polarized. We are either worshipping with the angels, or we are making utter fools of ourselves. So many things in Christianity are like this. He was the Son of God, or a fool. The tomb is empty, or it isn’t. It’s the Body and Blood, essential to nourishing our life, or it’s blasphemy. I love that Christianity is not about being safe and making lukewarm claims.
Everything in the divine liturgy is meant to help us experience Christ here and now, not just “intellectually” through a sermon, but with every human sense that God gave us. The Eucharist isn’t just a visual aid “reminding” us, it’s the bold proclamation that He is here, wanting to live within and transform us now. To only prepare ourselves for some future encounter on judgment day would be very “Martha-like” indeed.