How badly do you want it?
Over-familiarity can breed contempt, but sometimes we need ready access.
My own church life is quite odd in England. The Orthodox community is rather thin on the ground. Generally, parishes that serve services in English rent spaces within Anglican buildings. Some parishes do not even have a regular priest so they meet once a month. Coming from communities in the States that, at minimum, observed weekly Vespers and Sunday Liturgy, confronting spareness has had its share of difficulties.
But there is something about sparseness that provokes desire. Sparseness forces one to make a choice. Being Orthodox has produced its share of difficulties, precisely when so many other opportunities present themselves. Additionally, being a Christian isn’t exactly a solo sport. Many of the Christians I’ve met here have not even so much known about Orthodoxy, let alone talked with an Orthodox Christian.
I was trying to think of an appropriate analogy to most of my opportunities to spend time with other Christians. While I keep a very bounded Communion discipline (only communing in Orthodox parishes), I do take advantage of a range of opportunities to get to know other Christians. Occasionally, these include an invitation to a Eucharistic service.
As I reflected on the run-up to Christmas, I realized that between 15 November and 25 December I had identically three opportunities to receive Communion. Such realities leave one hungry! And when you’re hungry, you definitely ask yourself why you make the choices you do.
Because so many people I interact with are Anglicans (fancy that), I often have to address the divergent Communion discipline with the folks I’m getting to know. [Anglicans will commune anyone who is baptized in the name of the Trinity, although in practice this discipline comes as anyone in “good standing” with a Christian church as some Anglicans don’t take exception to the idea of communing Quakers.] It’s particularly challenging on days where I would like to receive if a legitimate opportunity was available. But, as I was thinking about an appropriate analogy, finding myself in a non-Orthodox context when I want to receive communion is like craving a hamburger during Lent. It’s a non-starter.
I resolve the tensions by trying to make an active choice to prioritize being at Orthodox liturgies. Today definitely had the character of having to drag myself to get going. When you have an investment in a train ticket and need to leave your house 2 hours before the service starts, you experience the journey differently than when your parish is 5 minutes away from your flat. But I’m learning to welcome the space for desire.
And I really do miss Vespers.