How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord;
For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere…
I would rather be a doorkeeper [outcast] in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca [tears, weeping]
they make it a place of springs.
(Psalm 84: 1-2,10; 5-6)
When life is busy and filled with to-do lists—as it is for many of us—there is nothing like opening the door of a church and encountering a beautiful service. I have a day of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary board meetings ahead of me, but went for a short early morning walk that ended at the monastery Matins service. It was cold and still dark outside at 6:30 am. Stepping in to the church it was warm, a few candles flickering, the fragrance of incense, the psalms being read gently. “How lovely is Thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” I didn’t stay but for a few minutes to take it all in before going back to the guest house, walking past the cemetery at dawn, to write this reflection and get ready for the rest of the day. But even a short glimpse of “the courts of the Lord” is refreshing.
I’m not especially pious, and in seminary I had a tough time making it to Matins and Vespers every day. But I am blessed to be an Orthodox Christian, and for us the Church is our true home. If we have any strength it is from God, who gives us His strength most especially though the life of the Church. We carry the Church with us wherever we go, and in our hearts “are the highways to Zion.” As we go about our daily life in a world that is full of open and secret weeping, may God work through us to turn the “valley of tears” into a place of springs.
Yesterday Father Eric Tosi and I met individually with the OCA seminarians here. What a blessing to hear their stories. God is at work in their lives, drawing them to the Orthodox Church, bringing them to seminary (often with wives and families), giving them the desire to study and serve. Later I also met some of the wives as they were in a workshop doing “pysanky,” Ukrainian Easter eggs.
One of the students, Deacon Theophan Mackey (from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church), founded Elijah’s Mantle, an outfit based at Saint Tikhon’s and run by students that matches those who have liturgical items to donate with missions and parishes that have need. Please consider helping them out.