I have decided I LOVE the lingering smell of incense on my clothes after I've left a church service. I remember when the "smoke" used to make me cough and make my nose itch. Now, sometimes, I can hardly smell it. I now hate when that's the case as the smell has become such an ingrained piece of worship that the it takes me to a place that I maintain is much holier than the physical space I happen to be occupying at the moment. To have that element of my senses so involved in my worship is an incredibly beautiful thing.
Moreover, I've noticed that I've started crossing myself a lot more the last month or two. I'm sure the origins of my increased propensity to cross is thanks in part to my dear friend Dia and the hundreds of times I've seen her cross herself in mid-conversation. However, I will say that for me, crossing myself isn't an empty action but rather has truly become a silent prayer of my heart.
I've been reading recently The Way of a Pilgrim and in it the author talks about the seperation of the mind and heart and how the Jesus Prayer can become so ingrained into one's heart that the heart can be praying while the mind is busy with other things. I can't go so far as to say I've reached that spiritual point with the Jesus Prayer (though, by God's grace one day I will) but I will say I think I better understand what the author is talking about given my experience with crossing myself. Much like with the incense, I remember my former days and my position with crossing. When I first came into the Faith I did not know the point nor importance of crossing oneself. In time, Andrew came to explain it to me in a way that I somewhat understood. One thing he said is that, in its own way, the cross is like a silent prayer. Even though I understood when it was used and somewhat of the reason way, I had to force myself to do it. (and you better believe it was only at the appointed times of 'In the name of the Father....") However, now almost two years in, the cross has become a quiet little prayer of comfort for me. I was quite conscious of when I used it as most people I interact with are removed from the religious world and hence, crossing is a bit foreign to them. I've lately come to disregard that concern and have been using the sign of the cross as I've felt my spirit guide me. Sometimes I just need to cross and recognize my presence in front of the Lord and have no other real reason for crossing. Other times, I know a prayer is due but I don't necessarily know what to say at the moment and just cross to give acknowledgement to Christ's presence and or the need of His presence at a particular juncture. For instance, as I was driving home tonight from the monastery I came across a car accident at Speer and Downing. All I could do was to cross and ask the Lord to be with them. (Thanks in part to a practice I saw my mom do as we would pass people with broken down vehicles as we were traveling. She always said a little prayer for them.)
At any rate, perhaps some people think the frequency of my crossing is a bit excessive, but I stand firm in that it is a prayer of my heart and the more I cross the more it means my heart is on the things of Heaven. and the Lord knows I need more thoughts of that than of things of this world.