By Alexandra Morbey
Why am I still here? The question requires more self-reflection than I anticipated. I’ve tried to answer in fits and starts and come up short of anything inspiring or interesting. The final result is a blog entry about romance. That’s what it boils down to. Pious and practical in parts, but the overarching theme is romantic.
I’m tempted to search the correct, academic definition of romantic, but I won’t. For the purposes of this entry, romance is defined as the heartfelt search for beauty, truth, dignity, kindness… whether technically accurate or not. These parameters I set by my own stubborn and spoiled terms. Stubborn and spoiled, I admit I am, but I am convinced over and over again that what I seek lies outside of my own sensibilities and imagination and my own ability to comprehend.
A romantic heart can lead most anywhere. That’s the danger, and that’s the adventure. My mother’s prayers must have been fervent as she navigated her own challenges of marriage, career, and my siblings. Prayers. God’s mercy. One Lenten evening in a bar not far from St Vladimir’s Seminary, I pounded my little fist on a table and asked my future husband (and fellow seminarian) “Does true love exist?” He answered, “Let’s give it a try.”
A significant choice was made that night.
The choice of a spouse may be the most important in terms of an individual’s future happiness. Dear Readers, the emphasis cannot be great enough. Within that choice- romantic, pragmatic, or whatever else- lies the direction of your life and the lives of present and yet-unborn family. Every ounce of your physical, mental, and spiritual development must come into play. Yet it can play out in a comical (charming?) scene at Tumbledown Dick’s Bar in Tuckahoe, New York.
You see, despite myself, I had incredible direction from a mighty compass that even I did not understand that night when I asked, “Does true love exist?” In my flailing about in soft academics and variant forms of Christianity, I found myself at seminary. My muddled thinking was occasionally pierced by clarity. I often found myself moved to tears in lectures by Frs Schmemann, Hopko, and Meyendorff. The seminary halls were filled with wonderful people from around the world. Even my boundless romantic sensibilities were satiated.
I had found a compass to guide my search.
There, at seminary, the greatest, most romantic compass of all was first revealed to me and continues to reveal itself fresh and new to me to this day…. the liturgy. An accurate compass, giving direction, holding positions steady, averting miscalculation and loss.
Oh, this does not mean I scramble to church whenever possible. In a complex sort of way, it’s often quite the opposite. But I am sensible enough to know it’s good and right to attend. My romantic cause is not forgotten. Once there, I may be blessed with a gift of clarity of thought or a lofty emotion or two. More often, though, force of habit transforms and shapes my life.
Discipline of habit in the midst of romance bears abundant blessings.
Attendance at liturgy is a practical habit. This habit is a choice made within the context of my romantic marital choice, made within the context of my romantic choice to seek beauty, truth, goodness…
So, I’m still here. Married to an Orthodox priest and living in Minnesota. Unabashedly romantic.
My husband and I have given true love a try, and, in spite of me, the experiment is successful. St Mary’s Cathedral is across the street and offers ample opportunity to exercise liturgical discipline and habit. The cold outside is fierce, but the fire where I sit is bright and warm. The sun is shining mercifully. My daughter’s big dog snores peacefully at my feet. This romantic counts her blessings. I am glad to still be here.