This past weekend was the yearly trip to Mariapoch in Burton, Ohio. For those not familiar with what this is, it's an annual pilgrimage made to pay homage to the Dormition of the Theotokos (i.e., the passing of Mary, Mother of God). It's a sister shrine to the place in Hungary where there is an icon of Mary that first wept tears in 1696. The last recording of the icon weeping was in 1905. There is an old looking icon at Burton of Mary, but I don't know the history of it or if it has any connection to the Mariapoch in Hungary.
The grounds and buildings at the American Mariapoch are absolutely beautiful. I was fortunate enough to be able to make it there for both Saturday and Sunday. The weather was so hot that it limited how much I was able to look around and all the statues and groves dedicated to Mary. I plan to go up at a later date (and to not forget my camera on both days) and spend more time looking at everything and taking pictures.
There were several services over the weekend, including Vespers, Liturgy, and an Akathist service, as well as a campout for the Eparchial Byzanteen group. On Sunday, they were supposed to recite the Jesus Prayer at 2:45. There was something being broadcasted over the loudspeakers, but it didn't sound like the prayer. So I went and checked out the new gift shop and bought some things. The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was the main reason I had went up on Sunday with our church priest and his family. I was present at two liturgies that our bishop had celebrated in the past, and had enjoyed listening to him speak. The gospel for this Sunday was from Matthew 18 23-35. It's the parable about how a servant of the king asks for more time to pay his debt, and the king absolves him from it. Then, this servant admonishes his own slave for the same thing and has his put in jail. Now, this was the fourth time I had heard this passage in as many days, and it was haunting me. It started the previous Thursday with a video I watched on the same subject, and then continued with an mp3 program I had downloaded and listened to that afternoon. The ironic thing was that this is the very subject I had been wrestling with, forgiveness. I had been questioning why I was having such a hard time forgiving myself for my past, when God had forgiven all. The things I were beating myself up over weren't even things t hat I needed to go to the person and ask for forgiveness, and there weren't amends that I could make, it was just me. Forgiveness had already been given. I talked about this subject on Facebook, and a friend there told me to get over it, and she was right.
The next morning, I finally realized why it was that I was having such a hard time with forgiving myself. As much as I had thought in my own heart that I had forgiven wrongs that were done to me, I truly had not forgiven them. I said the words during liturgy, but it was said in my head, and not my heart. The hurts that I thought were finally in my past were still there. I don't think I need to forget them, but I need to forgive so that I can move on from this point. One of my favorite quotes is that "Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself." And I was refusing the gift.
At the Friday night vigil for the feast, I was told to mentally put my hurt in a box, place it up there on the altar, and offered it up to God. And while it wasn't all gone, I made the promise to try to forgive.
Being at Mariapoch on Sunday, and listening to the message once again from the bishop, it was hard to hold resentment inside of me anymore. After all, if Mary held no resentment whatsoever toward those who had crucified her son, who I am to hold anger and hurt toward those to have wronged me? Maybe this is just the start of what may be an ongoing process, of me placing my hurt up on that altar until the last of it is finally gone.
I wonder a lot why people have to go through the things that they do. I believe that there is something to learn from every experience, good and bad, although the reason may not be obvious to the person at that time, or it may not be understood until many years have passed. I do know that in the end, it makes us stronger people. You can be bitter about what has happened, or you can use your experience to help someone else. The choice is theirs to make. Their life can be ruled by love, or fear. My fear of being hurt again is keeping me from being able to fully forgive. And I need to learn to let go of it, and to fully trust God.
So I pray that this is the true beginning of my hurt being gone, and that I've been made a stronger person for having gone through it.