Friday, November 10, 2006

Defining faith

Most people that know me, and some who read this blog frequently, know that I don’t do religion. I can’t do religion. Apparently, part of what I lack is faith, but a big part of it also involves not wanting to be a hypocrite by saying I believe in something in its entirety when I have issues with some parts of the whole. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to grow a little bit, to understand more about religion, and see if maybe somehow, some way, I can find faith in something beyond the temporal, physical, logical plane.

My husband has been translating the New Testament for me, because I wanted a simple translation that is as close to the original as possible. As poetic as translations into English are, it seems that some things are changed, in small ways, when trying to translate it into something that sounds beatific and wise in English. Sure, the gist is still the same, but language is important. I’m not doing well with the Bible just the same, there are so many things I find contentious – things that bother me, but maybe with a better understanding and good discussions with people that have faith I’ll work through it all. We’ll see. Of course I still fast with my husband on Wednesdays and Fridays – I support him wholeheartedly in his faith, although I don’t go to church with him on Sundays. Realistically speaking, even if I had faith, I don’t see myself getting up at 8am on Sundays. I guess I’m just not ready to sacrifice in that way. He understands that we are not at the same place – and may never be.

Yet recently, the devastatingly real struggle for life, health, and happiness that is going on right now for GAC and her family has led me down an unusual path. I want her to be ok, to be the same person she was before this ordeal began. I want her to live a long, happy life of health and well-being. I have faith that this can be accomplished by the hope, thoughts and prayers of people that love her, know her, and strangers like me from around the globe (although I don’t entirely think of myself as a stranger to AT and GAC, as I wrote before). Am I saying that I believe in prayer? Am I saying that I have faith?

Today was the second time I attended vespers this week – really the second time ever I’ve participated in an evening prayer (although there is a time that this may have occurred at a Methodist camp in Beersheba when I was a teenager – the details are sketchy and a bit dubious). I went each time for the sole purpose of lighting candles for GAC, and ended up staying for the prayer. I haven’t actually been fond of the Greek Orthodox Churches I’ve been in, they’ve been overly resplendent with gilded ornamentation in a such a way as to be distracting. In our neighborhood alone, there are three churches within very close proximity, and probably another dozen or so more in easy walking distance. My husband has been of late attending Acheiropoeitos, one of the older churches in our neighborhood, and so that is where we went.

I like this church, surprisingly. The interior is very unassuming, with a modest amount of shine and ornaments, along with some very austere iconic artwork. It is all stone, marble and wood - very dark, gothic, ethereal. As I was sitting there, ensconced within the warm smell of incense, surrounded by candlelight, with the soothing chants of the priest echoing in my ears, I felt a sense of peace – a peace I have never felt anywhere else but there, at that moment, in that church. I was sitting in a passageway where there was a marble step that had been so worn down by centuries of worshippers it could no longer be called a step, but a spillway – and suddenly I felt as if the faith of all those who passed there before me had gushed forth, flowing in and around me. It was a comfort, an odd feeling for me. I don’t understand what it meant, but somehow I feel as if I am a step closer to something I can’t describe or imagine. Maybe I am finding my faith, or maybe not. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the honest search, the continuing journey.


AT said...

Mel, as you probably know, GAC is a design student, and a lover of design art. Byzantine/gothic design, she has always found amazing. The almost decadent ornateness. The ancient steps. That would be a holy place for her.
Thanks for telling us about it. We're going to have to crash on your couch when this is over, and have you show us that church.
Hell, I'll bet it'd be good for you to have some Tennessee folks around!

traveller one said...

That's beautifully said.

Alice in Austria said...

That's a lovely post. Thanks for sharing!!

Mrs. Eaves said...

Thanks for such a great post. It sounds like we're in similar boats...I also do not attend church, have loads of problems with the Bible, and attempted to take Greek in college so I could get a more accurate translation. My husband & kids attend church regularly, and have my wholehearted support.
I'm glad that you found comfort in the church you went to. I keep wondering if that will ever happen to me. I think you hit the nail on the head, though, when you said that what matters is the honest search and continuing journey. I can't say that I've ever honestly searched.
Anyway, thanks for the post and a huge thank you for all your support and thoughts concerning GAC.

Anonymous said...

You should see the videos of Richard Dawkins speaking in Virgina:,303,Reading-of-The-God-Delusion-in-Lynchburg-VA,Richard-Dawkins--C-SPAN2

Both his talk, and the susequent Q&A are very interesting, no matter which side of the religion debate you come down on.