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The Dime
Last year after Russian Easter, I wrote this.

I'm still awestruck with what goes through my head everytime I return to that church. It's perhaps the strongest thread running through my childhood that doesn't completely revolve around my family. I was an altar boy! It's shocking to have so much come back to me, to be able to see the invisible lines a layperson does not cross, the weight of the candles I used to carry, every word and hymn and prayer. Almost like someone else's memories.

As strong as it is for me, though, it will never be as strong as it is for my grandmother. It is more than a childhood for her: it is life. It is community, it is faith. People come up to her at church who she's known for decades upon decades, and the twisted roots of a Russian family tree spread far and wide in the cathedral. When I am as old as her, I doubt there will be any place for me to return to and be surrounded by the peers I grew up with. There is no great community anymore, the one that brings culture, heritage and support.

I stood in the basement, as we always do for midnight service. We stood, and I listened to the hymns. In all the ritual and gold and action, I think it slightly ironic that had my parents not started bringing me to church, I would have been an atheist, or at least an agnostic. Yet because of the church, I am a very spiritual and divinity-minded pagan.

And who knows, maybe I would have stayed a Christian (of my own kind, naturally) if they had just taught me one thing: how to truly participate in the worship. Not the songs, or the dogma, or what an altar boy does to assist with each service. That was action, that was to fill time. No church school class ever taught me how to be active in my worship. Just be at church seemed to be the key. Take communion, and here's the list of things to prepare you for that. Never, ever how to connect to the divine, never how to make the service about being with God instead of praising him. I was always bored in church because of that. Because I was maybe physically doing something, but mentally or spiritually, I wasn't engaged at all.

But I ramble on and on. There's too much brain in me that continues to attempt dissection. The ritual and spirituality of the church grew a pattern in my young heart, but didn't fill it. I go back every year because it is the closest thing I have to a heritage. I always walk away knowing that I am on the right path, one that only stops at St. Mary's Russian Orthodox Church at midnight once a year.