I Come to Church Early…

on Sunday mornings so I have the place all to myself at least for a few minutes. I know, the point is that we gather in community but before the work of the Liturgy I have time to do little tasks, light candles, fire up the censer, warm some water, the little details that will make everything flow in the hours ahead. Such things are a kind of offering for me, tidying up the place is a kind of worship because of Who we expect to be with us.

I find a kind of shelter, as well, in those quiet moments of simple tasks. My world can be busy, electric, digital, and full of people. I crave the silence of the early morning church, the time to take deep breaths and try to distance my heart from the world outside. I’m not trying to hide. I’ll go back into that world soon enough. Still, a moment or two of peace in a holy place is a enduring kind of sustenance.

Perhaps visitors who come to my church will see the colors, vestments, and beautiful things and think only about the practicality of it all. Couldn’t you have done with less? Don’t you know that there are poor people out there who could have benefitted from what you paid for that chalice? All of that is true in its own way and a very real part of our lives is dedicated to making sure that those enduring human needs are being met in the name of Christ.

Yet, I need beauty and holiness as well, the idea, the reality that there are places in the world where the world itself stops for a while and heaven seems close. I know God is everywhere but at the same time I cherish being in a place where He is the only reason for its existence, a place where God is deliberately and lovingly invited to be with us and all the angels and Saints are welcome as well. Such places are growing rarer in this world, and, simple or elaborate, each one is a refuge from time and space, a place where the weary can find some rest and where in the quiet moments before Liturgy, alone in a room full of candles, icons, and the smell of incense, I become truly alive.

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