Keeping Vigil and the Odor of Sanctity

Keeping Vigil and the Odor of Sanctity

I woke at 3 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Contracting uterus and a sinking heart. Oh please, not today. With each new wave of pain I pushed the button on my phone to check the time. No closer together than five minutes apart no further than ten. No reason to wake anyone; but enough that I couldn’t sleep. Eventually I got out of bed and went to sit in the living room, carrying my iPhone with me. Time to pray.

I stopped by the prayer shelf to pick up the small aromatic vial of blessed oil and the icon of the Theotokos that arrived int he mail yesterday, a most thoughtful gift from a dear friend. Settling into my chair, quickly sending out a prayer request on Twitter and Facebook just in case any of my friends were insomniac and wanted to join me in prayer.

My go-to application on my iPhone for the divine office is iBreviary. Universalis is nice (recently had a great update too!) and I use it as a backup because sometimes iBreviary flakes out; but I don’t like the Universalis translations as well. Anyway, iBreviary includes an option for a longer vigil with Sunday’s Office of Readings. (Click on Breviary and then on Office of Readings and you can see today’s office):

(By the way, how cool is this embeddable iBreviary preview? As far as I can tell, from the above preview window, you can access anything that I can access on my iPhone app.)

Since it was the middle of the night and I was clearly not going to be sleeping, I pressed my icon of the Theotokos into my bulging belly and read all the readings. Slowly savoring the word. Delicious draught of sweetness. I can’t say much of it stuck with me in the morning; but it was just the refreshment I needed in the dark of night.

Just as a man comes forth naked from his mother’s womb,
so he will go forth naked in the end;
there is nothing which he can take away with him.

After I finished the reading, I flicked off the phone and sat in the dark for some time listening to the stillness. Finally, I decided I was tired enough maybe I could go back to bed and get a bit more sleep. I crept into my room and slid my icon under my pillow, cradled the phone next to my chest so I could continue to check the frequency of my contractions when they came. Eventually they subsided enough that I slid into real sleep.

Woke again at 6 when Dom’s alarm went off. Our plan was to rise early so that we could make the early Mass in our old parish in Salem and then attend the surprise party my brother-in-law had arranged for Dom’s sister’s 40th birthday. I told Dom I didn’t feel comfortable driving that far away so he climbed back into bed for a few minutes before deciding he couldn’t get back to sleep. I did fall asleep again after he left the room and slept until 7 when I heard Sophie’s heartbroken sobbing as Dom broke the news that we wouldn’t be going to a party with all her cousins after all.

In the next hour I only had one contraction so we decided to go ahead and go to Mass. After Mass Father C. came up to say hi and to confirm that I’d be seeing him for an annointing on Wednesday morning. I told him about my late night fears and he agreed to go ahead and do it right then.

This was my third time receiving the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (the first time was right after my cancer diagnosis scare while I was waiting for the test results that declared me cancer-free and the second before Ben’s birth.) It is such a beautiful sacrament. Father used a variation of the prayers that was specific for a mother about to give birth.

I love how Mother Church gives us this wonderful gift, spiritual armor to fill us with grace and strength before we go into the toughest battle we’ll probably ever face. Whether you give birth naturally or via c-section, this is one way all of us mothers are able to participate in Christ’s sacrifice: this is my body, given up for you. We show our love for our families as we give up all our physical self to the task of bringing forth life. Truly it is a profound honor to enter into this mystery and a time of peril. I am so glad to have all the spiritual weapons I can have. And afterward the smell of the blessed oil on my hands and head! The smell of holiness. I love that about my dear mother Church too: that she knows we are physical beings, that her gifts are tangible as well as spiritual: water to remind me of baptism, anointed hands pressed firmly on my head, oil smelling sweetly hours later. And, of course, the best and highest gift: his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, food and drink refreshing on my tongue.

And now home. Waiting. Hoping Anthony will keep waiting too. I’m at 39 weeks so if he decides to come he’s full term, not early. But Thursday is the date scheduled for my c-section. I’m nervous enough about the procedure to really prefer it not be an emergency and to have my OB and not whoever happens to be on call today. And my mom is supposed to fly in tomorrow afternoon. It would be nice for her to have a few days to settle in before we’re into the craziness of new baby and hospital visits. But it is what it is. Babies come in their own time. Whatever happens, I’m spiritually ready and that’s what matters most of all.

We hope in you, Lord; be a source of strength for us today and our salvation in times of trial.

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