“And, haven’t we been praying for the unity of Christians since the 1930s? Really, we have a mature fruit to pick and offer to the world.” Those were my very humble thoughts.
Everything seemed ready, radiating and perfect: the liturgy, the prayers, and our online presence.
But: our community was struck and strictly confined by Miss Covid! We were worried as many of our sisters were sick; our basic needs of food and health preoccupied us and we prayed that nobody would become severely ill (thank God nobody has).
I sat in my room, confined, alone, and sick. I was sad, and angry. Soon we all received in our rooms the prayer booklet, prepared for each moment of common prayer. Now we were to pray it by ourselves, in front of our individual candle, icon, and Bible…. “What a disappointment!” I thought, staring, glaring out of the window. Some carefree birds constructed their nest under a corner of the roof of Arche (our chapel) that stood there, empty!
But then, as if it was the Holy Spirit, I remembered Psalm 84: “My heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself where she places her young—near your altars.”
Something turned inside of me. I realized suddenly that, if we, as a community, have prayed for Christian unity since the beginning of our history... could we not be carried, this particular week, by the prayer for unity of others? As so many around the globe were praying with the materials we prepared, could we just let go and take care of ourselves this week? Prayer does not begin or end with our personal efforts, success or failures.... it is a wave of prayer on which we are sailing. And this wave is so big that it can do without us for a little week; it carries us no matter!
Luckily, at some point in the week, the sisters who were not sick could gather for the evening prayers. And the wave of prayer carried me through. It even made me able again to pray fully and wholeheartedly in my room, confined, sick and alone. Could I have experienced that if we would have been able to pray as planned? I’m not sure.
Yes, the ways of the Spirit can be surprising, unsettling. And yet, we might discern the One that holds us. Whether you gather in real life or online during this time of Pentecost: may you sail on the waves of prayer, driven forward by the wind of the Spirit.