We’ve been home, away from prayer and work for eight (long) weeks. Supposedly, we’re praying and working from home. In an attempt to execute this formidable task, at least with respect to “work,” I’ve occupied my dining room (it’s an explosion equal to that of my office now), while my husband has set up camp in my daughter’s room (which he breaks down every afternoon, so she won’t freak out).
But, sitting in these corners of our house typing away on laptops, of course, gives one cause to grow antsy. Really antsy. Instead of walking down the hall to find a colleague to chat with, or a chapel to pray in, I walk around my house and imagine all the things I should clean, organize, or otherwise take apart and put together again.
And, such wanderings have been quite productive: I assembled a tricycle. I made three pans of muffins and a pie in the past 10 days. I scoured the soapscum out of our bathroom shower (take THAT, 1970’s blue formica!). I tackled the sunporch which had devolved into dubiously stacked winter storage.
Yet, task-oriented as I am, and as delighted as I am that my shower is clean (or at least that I’m eating muffins), this has been a dark time. I’ve gotten some “work” done. But my prayer life is a wreck.
Without a colleague to remind me to be joyful, or a chapel to sit in…let alone the absence of the Mass…I am struggling to pray.
This struggle has been palpably present because I have been studiously avoiding my little home prayer corner, with its designated chair. This little chair—one of the last remaining refugees from my grad school furniture suite of hand-me-downs—exists solely for me to sit and pray in it. It is orange. It is decently comfortable. It faces icons. It is in a quiet spot (assuming we have no distressed child). But it’s also covered in piles of things. Maternity clothes I no longer need to wear. Winter blankets I’ve pulled off our beds. A mix of baby toys and kids’ socks (discarded by my son), and play food (deposited by my daughter). There is literally no room for me—not at this table of prayer.
Why, I wonder, is it so easy to be complacent when one prays alone? Why can’t I just clean off the chair? I realize, as each week rushes by and falls off the precipice of the past, that I need and want the liturgy to hold me accountable. I need and want a community to look into my eyes and give me the sign of peace. I need and want voices around me to sing a song of joy. Sitting alone in my chair—whether at the dining room table or in my room—simply has devolved into a mess I feel I can’t control; much like the ominous destruction of the pandemic coursing through our world.
Yet my dark nights of the soul are no match for the Gospel. What are we to do when darkness surrounds us? We are called to wait for the Lord, for the day is near. Christ came back from death’s domain to shed peaceful light upon humanity. I believe in Christ. I believe that peace will return. I believe we will pray together again. I also believe my children will sleep, but that’s another story.
So what can I do to trim my lamp while I’m waiting? Yes, I can bake more muffins. But, how about I start by cleaning off my chair?