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Archive for September 14th, 2003

Today was the first occasion I can recall in which I have a very conscious memory of celebrating an Orthodox feast two years in row. I’m sure my sometimes sporadic attendance has spanned similar feasts, though most likely one of the lesser ones. But I recall exactly one year ago today attending the Divine Liturgy for the celebration of the Holy Cross. Last year Anna had just left to see her brother in Pittsburgh, taking the car. So I hopped the bus to All Saints and worshipped at the Feast.

Lately, my worship has been one of coming with great needs. There have been plenty of times in the last year and a half or so, in which I’ve had experiences of Scripture cutting through all the clutter and hitting me right in the midst of my heart. There have been times of great joys and emotions. But of late, I come so often not feeling as though I have anything to offer, but rather feeling like one big sinkhole of need. Part of this is my physical exhaustion. Four weeks of not getting more than three or four hours of sleep at one time (I think the record was that one morning I got five in a row), and usually getting only about an hour and a half or two at one stretch, really does a number on you. Anna and I are both feeling it. It sure makes parenting at two a.m. really hard. More to the point, it makes parenting at 3:00 in the afternoon, after an entire day of a sleepless Sofie crying almost non-stop, an exercise in impossibility. How do parents do this? And how do they do it, and not kill one another?

Last night was one of those nights. Sofie didn’t sleep much yesterday, but her wakefulness was generally calm and mild. A little fussy at times. But usually calmed with a diaper change or a feeding. A mid-afternoon trip in the car to the library resulted in a long, four-hour nap. Regrettably, things went downhill from there.

So after an evening of frequent interrruptions to our movie (“The Rookie”), after a long night of fussing and crying, and of Anna and I snapping at one another, I headed to the Liturgy one carved out shell of a man. Tired, mad at myself, feeling frustrated at not knowing what I as a parent should know. I drove in silence trying to place all my worries, cares, and guilt in a box labelled “To Present to Christ at Worship”. But the lid kept popping off.

We had two chrismations today. This only exacerbated my pent-up anguish. How much I wish I and my family could stand and be sealed! How much I needed the heavenly medicine of the Body and Blood of our Lord. But whether tax collector or Pharisee, I stood outside looking in.

There were some measures of grace. God in his mercy always meets us where we’re at and calls us higher. On arriving for Matins (Orthros), I presented the diptych I’d brought to be blessed, and an empty vial for holy water. My friend, Nelson, greeted me with the kiss of peace and an embrace. Father stopped and took my hand.

About an hour later, the entire congregation were going forward, prostrating three times on the way to the table on which lay the Cross of Blessing. It is the custom at All Saints (I cannot speak to how widespread this is) to arrange a large tray of red carnations as a bed on which the Blessing Cross is then placed for veneration. The flowers are blessed and processed before the congregation, and the Cross placed on them. After three prostrations, the worshippers then venerate the cross and part with a final prostration. We do this prior to and following the service. I cannot rationally speak to why these prostrations and venerations were a grace to me. But I was somehow strengthened.

After the service, Nelson brought the diptych to me, commenting on its beauty. I told him it was going in my study carrel at school so that I could always study in holiness. He grinned and nodded.

On leaving, I was fortunate to take home with me one of the blessed carnations. (I remembered from last year!) It now resides with my icons, to assist me in my prayers.

The holy water will partially refill the vial I keep at home, and the remainder will go with me tomorrow as I pray over and bless my carrel with the water. I will invoke the aid of St. Michael of Hosts to watch over and guard my place of study. In it will go the icons, as well as an image of Blessed Seraphim that I printed off from my computer.

Before leaving for home, though, I followed an impulse and headed back into the nave to speak to Father Patrick. He finished speaking with Nelson, and came over to where I was standing. I kissed his hand and asked for his prayers for Anna and me. His earthy (or incarnational) advice was quite welcome and calming. And he assured me of his prayers.

Before thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master
And thy Holy Resurrection we glorify.

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