I am a little nervous about writing so openly about these issues of faith and my view of God in such a public forum. I am not a churchy person–it is one of the few things I keep close. But today it seemed approrpriate so here are a few of my thoughts…
Several months ago, Max came home from a playdate depressed and sad. It took a little prodding, but I finally got him to tell me what was wrong.
Max: (with indignation in his voice): Mom…Jake says we aren’t Jewish. He says we are Christian.
Me: We are Christian. Actually we are Catholic which is a kind of Christian, although we sometimes worship at the Episcopal church. (I think to myself…IF we actually go to church.)
Max: WHAT? (with sadness and disappointment in his voice) But…we celebrate all the holidays…
It’s true. We do. The New Year with his best friend Jake and family, Yom Kippur with our dear friends Stephen and Marilyn. We light Channakah candles with several different families each December, and we have sat at many a Passover Seder table in his young years. We have been to so many Shabbat dinners that Max actually can say the prayers over the candles along with our host if he or she prays slow enough.
And its also true that we are really bad at celebrating the Christian holidays–other than the big holidays of Christmas and Easter, which frankly feel so commercial despite my efforts to combat this at home. Aside from these two, there are not many Christian community celebrations that ring true for me. Lighting Advent candles and opening Advent calendars are quiet at home family affairs. We are not great about getting to church–in fact we are really bad at church. And those saints’ feast days do not call out for big loud family dinners.
And Max and me, we are great at big, loud, chaotic gathering that involve food and bread and wine and apples dipped in honey. It is part of how we sing our prayers of thanksgiving. The Jewish holidays call to us in this way and so we find ourselves often worshipping alongside our Jewish friends who so lovingly welcome us into their homes.
I have struggled alot about how to raise my son in faith, how to give him a framework upon which to hang his own understanding of the mysteries of the world. And while I have never struggled with my own faith and my spirituality, I do struggle greatly with institutionalized religion and the Catholic Church in particular. I struggle with the limited role for women in my church. I struggle with the church’s position on the love shared by my gay friends. I struggle with power-hungry bishops and money-hungry pastors and a bureaucracy that let so many children get hurt to protect priests who were sick. I have issues.
But my God, I have no issues with Him. I see Her face in the face of my friends, my loved ones. I see His hand in the tremendous people I know who work very hard for justice, fairness and kindness in the world. God is omnipresent to me in the laughter of children, in the bloom of a flower, in a blue blue sky and in the kind words of a stranger. But my God is also most present to me in the face of my loved ones, in food prepared with love, in big tables around which our most cherished ones sit. And that is why for us, these harvest holidays, the lighting of candles around a table, the breaking of bread and the introspection of the new year celebrations are what call us to worship.
I find myself thinking about something my neighborhood grandma once told me…something that rings truer each day. Grandma was the wise older woman in our neighborhood who looked after all us kids and loved us all as her own. She is Jewish and she and I were talking about her own children, one who had converted to Catholism in marriage. We were also talking about another of the neighborhood grandkids who had become a wiccan.
“Meggie,” she said. “Yahweh, She is so big. None of us humans can understand how deep, complex and awesome He is. But God wanted to know us all. She/He gave each of our cultures a little window to look upon Him with, to communicate with Him/Her in a way we could understand given our culture. Religion is just the window–no one view is more or less correct. Its the same loving God. And thats the only thing that is important.”
Perhaps I am a spiritual traveler, one who enjoys the view through many windows. In that spirit, I say to all my dear ones and all the strangers who pass this way, those who celebrate today and those who chose to celebrate in other ways or not at all: L’shanah Tova! –May your new year be filled with love, community, nourishment and joy!