The Apodosis of the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy and Life-giving Cross: Celebrating Thirty-Six Years in the Midst of the Saints

Thirty-six years ago, at about 11:09 a.m., on a Thursday in southcentral Kansas, I entered the world some weeks early. Weighing in at only a bit over five pounds, and only fifteen inches long, my early birth coincided with not-fully-developed lungs, so I was in the hospital for another two weeks, on oxygen. My mother could only look at me through the glass. She was not able to hold me for the first two weeks of my life. Such was medical care in those days.

By God’s grace, I have seen thirteen thousand one hundred forty-nine days. Only a few of those days can match this morning’s events. My baptism. My marriage. Sofie’s birth.

Today, my wife, Anna, and our daughter, Sofie, worshipped together at All Saints Orthodox Church. For Anna, it was her third worship at All Saints (her fourth Divine Liturgy all told). For Sofie, it was the first time she worshipped with her mommy and daddy at the Divine Liturgy. It was positively the best birthday present I could have ever received.

Sofie slept peacefully through the first part of the service. Then during the Great Ekteina (Great Litany) with the Procession of the Bread and the Wine, she took part in the blessing of the children. It is the custom at All Saints for Father Patrick to place the Chalice over the heads of all the children, one at a time, and pray “May the Lord our God remember you in His Kingdom, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.” Sofie woke then, as we took her slumbering self from the car seat, so that I could hold her for Father Patrick’s blessing. Anna then took her down to the nursery to feed her. Sofie continued to sleep through the rest of the service.

Then, when the parishioners went to commune the Holy Gifts, I took Sofie from Anna and headed forward to receive the blessing. It wasn’t until just before I stood in front of Father Patrick that I realized Anna had slipped out of the pew and followed behind me. Anna’s never done that before. So there we were, a family, each one at a time receiving from God’s priest the merciful blessings of our Lord.

(And did I mention that I got another icon of St. Benedict–for my study carrel–blessed this morning?!)

The lections this morning were Galatians 2:16-20 and Mark 8:34-9:1–since we were marking the leave-taking of the Feast of the Holy Cross. During the reading of the epistle, the reader, Tresa, got to the part “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” and broke down. It took a handful of tries, with encouragement from Father, for her to complete the reading. I was convicted and condemned in my hard-heartedness. But I’ll blog about that at a later date.

Glory to God who has given this sinner such measures of grace! Brothers and sisters in His peace, pray for me, an unworthy sinner, that I may be counted worthy to partake of His Kingdom.