I remember a midwinter night Eucharist at the Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park. We had skied in from the nearby town of Moose; I can’t remember why. The building was cracking and popping as the baseboard heaters warmed it up. We had already vacuumed up all the fly carcasses, set out the chalice and paten and lit the candles. There weren’t very many of us, maybe ten or twelve. Gathering around the altar in the dark, we prayed and sang, speaking the ancient words of the liturgy. Afterwards, as we were skiing away from the building in a cold so intense it almost froze our eyelashes shut, the Northern Lights flared an eerie green in the sky to the north.
During that period in my life – I was in my early twenties – I was always looking for some sort of dramatic conversion experience like Paul’s on the road to Damascus. Christianity made sense to me about half the time. I could take it or leave it, or so I thought. I longed for God to convince me in some sort of dramatic jolt, take away my doubts, make me a believer. No such thing ever occurred. But I always showed up for the Eucharist.
Little did I know that when I lived on into my sixties I would look back at experiences like that late night midwinter communion as the memorable religious moments of my life. They didn’t seem so important at the time.
“And they shall all be taught by God,” Jesus quotes the prophets to the people who have come out to listen to him. And he goes on to say that no one can come to him unless drawn by the father who sent him.
This being drawn happens between an individual heart and its creator. It’s a matter of finding that interior place in our souls where we recognize God because we are of God. Sometimes, for some people, there is a dramatic flash of understanding along this way that transforms us a bit, that causes a jump forward. But often there is just a gradual turning, a slow and steady coming to deeper and deeper knowing of and resting in God.
It’s not so common to see the Northern Lights from a place as far to the south as Wyoming is. And the dance of green light towering between horizon and apex of sky is rare indeed. Following on the heels of a candlelight Eucharist in a log church in the middle of the night, it filled me with awe. “What are humans,” I thought, “that you are mindful of us.”
It was a moment of recognition. Drawn by God at the core of my being into Being, I was alive with the life that will not die.
Holy One of Blessing, help us find you in all our moments as we open our hearts to who we most deeply are. We pray in the name of the Bread of Life. Amen.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado