It’s Christmas Eve. My kids are watching The Magic Schoolbus. Meanwhile I am uttering silent prayers for a peaceful evening. We are about to go to church. I expect we will be home a bit after midnight. Our kids will probably get us up at 6:30. If we’re lucky.
This is holy. All of this. The fatigue, the chaos of the holidays, the screaming of children, and the cookies we baked from a package because I didn’t have time to make shortbread – these are sanctified because they are ordered toward the Eucharist.
This is what Fr. Alexander Schmemann called the “sanctification of time.” Worship is not a magical ritual. I am not denying the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Neither was Fr. Schmemann. Rather, the power of that presence is in Christ’s ongoing incarnation in the people who gather in his name. The church is a journey into the kingdom. It is a journey that never ends. The moment we step away from the chalice, we have already taken our first step towards it again. Our departure is always also the beginning of a gathering. The Divine Liturgy is a journey into the kingdom of God because it is a journey into the presence of Christ, made ambiguously present in our midsts.
I was thinking about this today as I woke up from a nap. Often napping is something we try to do after service (a lot of people do). But we will be up late tonight, so I took a nap earlier in the day. As I woke up from what may have been the most perfect nap ever, I thought about how attempting to improve my energy level and mood by doing something like sleeping was actually an act of preparation for receiving the Eucharist. There is prayer and fasting and sleeping. There is also chaos and cheesy Christmas music, screaming children, and wrapping presents late into the night. These are oriented toward the mystery of the enfleshed God. Thus they are acts of worship. They are taken up in our journey into the kingdom, a journey which we never actually exit. Christ is in our midsts. He is and ever shall be. Therefore, the kingdom of God, as Jesus said, is among us too (Luke 17:21).