Friends of the Catholic faith have often referred to the ability to get someone (usually a family member, specifically a mother-to-child) to do something by calling up the Holy Trinity (either wholly or separately) as “Catholic Guilt.”
Mom: “Wake up and get dressed for church.”
Child: [whining] “But I don’t wanna get up…”
Mom: “Jesus hung on the cross for you, and you can’t give him an hour of your week?!”
Mom: “That’s what I thought. I’ll see you in the car in 10 minutes.”
I am a firm believer that the Orthodox also utilize this handy tool. In fact, the example above is pretty close to the conversation I had with one of my 14-yr olds on Sunday morning. I usually don’t hit up Jesus right off the bat, but it was the first Sunday of Lent and I wasn’t playin’ around. The phrase I hear most often from them as they fight through groggy on their way to fully awake is, “Why to we hafta go to church?” To which I supply my standard response, “The fact that you’re asking me that question is reason number one WHY you need to go to church.”
They pretty much hate that response. Which is fine because I pretty much hate hearing them whine about getting up for church.
All arguments aside, yesterday morning I decided church was on the agenda. I got word out to the 12-yr old and 5-yr old, and they were fairly compliant. They were dressed in record time and waited for the rest of us in the company of SpongeBob and Patrick. Fine. I finished getting ready, and mentally prepped myself for the second trek upstairs to rouse the angry teens. Much to my surprise, I saw them both up, out of bed and dressed when I got to their bedroom door. A weight was suddenly lifted from my shoulders, and I wasn’t feeling all drill sergeant-y anymore. The fact of the matter was that the chain of events that took place all but cemented my belief that a.) Orthodox guilt works! and b.) Divine Intervention is a real thing. Here’s why. Not more than 15 minutes earlier, when the first wake-up call I’d given the boys was met with undecipherable mumbling and groaning, I held my temper, walked to my room and said a little prayer: “Lord, please give me the strength and guide me to be a good mom, get these kids out of the house and to church without totally losing my mind and doing/saying something very un-Christian-like.” Or something along those lines.
Boom. And the kids were out of bed. With good attitudes.
We made it to church only about 20ish minutes late, and proceeded to participate in Liturgy all the way to the end with just one, tiny scuffle between the 12-yr old and 5-yr old. When we were “regulars” (and I won’t bore you with the details of why we aren’t now… except to say I’m trying to fix that ’cause I need me some Orthodox church right now) the older boys were altar servers, so they didn’t sit with me and the younger two. Having them with me during the service was nice, and I’d be lying if I said my eyes didn’t tear up when I heard them reciting prayers — both out of the book and from memory.
By the time we left church, I felt lighter than I have in weeks. I needed it. I needed the sensory experience that IS the Orthodox Liturgy — the icons, the choir, the incense, the Holy Bread… all of it. It’s everything that church is to me, and has been for 45 years. It’s one of my most important touchstones and I’ve missed it. And now, in the season of Great Lent, the pull of the church is irresistible. But I’m not fighting it. And as of yesterday morning, neither were my kids.