Sin eater

On how a kinda-cheesy Christian novel prepared the way for Orthodoxy…and Salvation


I promised a blog post tonight via my Facebook page, so here it is, though the thoughts running through my head when I promised the blog post have been pushed aside by new, less-important or less-pressing thought-lets. (baby, useless thoughts).

When I was thinking about blogging, I was listening to a local music show on NPR and a wonderful musician was playing a song she has yet to record called “These Sin-Eating Eyes.” It was perfect, perfect, perfect for me today and everyday.

I have always felt like a sin eater, in my home growing up and certainly in my profession now. Maybe not a sin eater in the classic Welsh and Appalachian way, but a sin eater none the less. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a “sin eater” is a person who was designated by the village to, via food and drink, take on the sins of the dying so they could pass from life to death peacefully.) It’s certainly not a Christian term or theological idea, but in the imagery one would be blind not to see a shadow of the Eucharist.

I spent all night last night dreaming about my father; dreams so evocative, so real, that when I woke up I forgot it had been nearly 10 years since we last spoke. It’s the time of year when thoughts of him and me and all that transpired between us are ever-present and sometimes heavy. I couldn’t right this minute tell you what my dream was about, but it may have been important. I’ve had a few of those lately. Don’t laugh, I know it’s weird, but that’s how I roll.

That book about the sin eater meant so much to me when I read it — this idea of being condemned to absorb the darkness around you on behalf of another. When I read the book, in my early 20s, I was just starting to dig at the meaning of my family, and how it molded me and shaped my understanding of God and a relationship to Him. I felt so helpless back then, burdened by a sense of obligation to take it all in, to deal with it, to fix it, to carry it so that those around me could have peace. I wanted a way out, any way out, because I knew it was destroying me.

This time of year that part of me bubbles up a bit to the surface. I feel a pull to the despair, to the anxiety, to the ridiculous sense of obligation for that which I cannot control. I am grateful, always, of the tools of my faith which provide me concrete ways through and around those ghosts of the past. But, like I’ve said countless times before here, often in relationship to what I see and do in the course of my work, you can’t unsee or unknow that which you now see and know.

Those sins, I’ve already consumed them. That darkness I have already taken into my soul. And like it is for everyone here, you my reader, regardless of your experience, that weight will be with you for awhile. But, taste and see that the Lord, He is good. His mercies are new, every single morning whether you are ready or desire it or not. For those who live their faith outside of the safety of the Sacramental life of the Traditional Church, know there is great peace and security here, where we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, where we taste the fount of Immortality.

We take in Life. And it wipes away our sins.

Ed. note: I highly suspect that this is one of at least a couple posts on this particular topic, since I clearly remembered what I was going to blog about.

Author: Rebecca

Orthodox Christian. Journalist. SAR K9 handler. All three of those are deeply related.

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