45 minutes before twelve people were set to arrive for dinner on Friday, my father-in-law and husband moved our new dining room table in. I'd already set the old table, arranged the candles and folded napkins, but the it was just too small for that size group. There was another table in our carport, we'd been waiting for the right time to bring it in. Matthew heard the longing in my voice, called his dad, and they made the switch.
The new-to-us table bosts two leaves, and fully extended, everyone would have a seat, a welcome. Matthew re-lit the candles, I dimmed the lights a bit, and as it always happens, after a quick hush--everyone arrived all at once.
Coming out of a my recent drought of community, I knew even before we gathered Friday that I'd ask an examen for our dinner's blessing. In the past, it's a prayer that works well because it guides the conversation, it blankets the table with prayer, even sometimes encompassing the course of the entire meal, and we can all eat instead of waiting. Between bites and sips, those gathered pray, listen, nod agreement and amens.
In December, around our community table, this prayer was rejected. Everyone's kids were hyped: there was crying, it was chaos, there weren't enough babysitters. We filled plates, found seats elbow to elbow (the table too small) and someone asked, "Are we doing that fancy prayer?"
And a frazzled mom in quick reply: "No, please. Someone just pray and we can get on with it."
That's clanged around in my head and heart, I have to admit. My ideals and expecations of community already were bruised, and that dismissal sort of kicked my chin in.
That fancy prayer is lengthy, it demands thought and vulnerability. Sometimes we just want to get on with things, with eating and laughing and not taking everything so seriously.
I realize within me I want to make many situations into ceremony, into liturgy. As that's lately been questioned, I've tried to tuck it away. No reccomending books or prayers. No lighting candles or requesting prayers. Just get on with things and not take them so seriously.
But Friday, I thought--maybe, maybe--I'd ask.
My friend David joked (I think?), "Oh, not this again..." He wasn't in our Christmas group, he was teasing, but I wavered until another guest asked what it was.
An examen, as Ignatius practiced, is just that: an examination of your day. Traditionally it's simply asking yourself when in the past day you felt closest to God, and when did you feel far from Him? We ask our communal blessing (now almost 8 years of marriage, I guess it's our own table liturgy) as a choosing: when did you feel God's presence today, or what are you thankful for?
The lights low, the wide wonderful table full, plates brimming, we shared the blessing on Friday. We each held up a thanksgiving, a filiment of grace and light. And as my heart filled and the Spirit whisped and wandered, we glimpsed our true selves and were filled and Filled.
Again, again--it wasn't just a fancy prayer, or something getting in the way. Our table seems annointed. A new season beckons, one of light and gathering and family liturgy.