Last night I attended a Passover Seder dinner for the first time. I was both surprised and delighted to receive the invitation from one of my son’s former teachers. I am an agnostic Catholic, if that really means anything, and it’s been a while since I participated in a formal and/or traditional religious event. I enjoy speaking with believers more so than the actual practice of attending Mass or other services.
I think my mother’s church is beautiful, and yet as I’ve stepped through its doors over the years I am overcome with sadness. It is the place where we formally said good bye to my sister. It does not bring me peace.
As we spoke and sang the words of prayer and poem tonight, I felt calm, curious, and included. A few times I wondered about what was going on at home. I’d left my phone on silent in my purse rather than in my pocket. What if there was an emergency? Did my husband have my friend’s number?
Unlike other evenings, I was able to let those worries go.
My participation in the Seder felt respectful.
It felt engaging.
I wanted to ask every person at the table a hundred questions about who they are and what had been their experience.
I felt appreciated that the host welcomed the group by asking everyone, if they felt comfortable, to note how they were connected to the gathering. I think we should do this regularly.
How do we belong?
How do we find ourselves in these situations?
How do we belong is a good question, one worth asking, especially if one finds oneself in a place where one doesn’t feel appreciated,welcome, or worthy.
The symbolism presented during the Seder is intriguing. I was more mindful of the food and drink that we consumed. I thought about whose hands prepared the food, and how perhaps thousands of hundreds of men and women ate those same foods a long time ago.
My own ignorance of religious text, excluding the Bible, didn’t add much to the conversation about how to interpret or consider the words of the evening. I remember those days of bible study during my freshman year of college and the memories make me feel ill. So much hypocrisy, so much judgement, even if it wasn’t meant to be so. Tolerance was promoted but not practiced. Students were born again while others were cast aside. I found myself adrift, wondering what and whom to believe, and for a while I believed in nothing.
Last night I was included in a beautifully inclusive place of prayer and reflection. Not one among us might know the other were it not
for circumstance (you long-time readers know that I do not believe everything happens for a reason), and yet we were brought together for a few hours in a place of peace in otherwise busy lives.
Now it’s time to find the eggs.