Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Meager Fruits of Fasting (Thus Far)

So, I tried to start this blog already and be all 'PC' about why we are still in the Nativity fast and everyone else is celebrating the birth of Christ, well, not everyone, there are some who celebrate christmas without Christ being the reason they do it. Anyway, we are still 13 days out until the 25th of december (by the church calendar, the one in place when Christ was alive, that did not get changed by Pope Gregory XIII, hence Gregorian/civil calendar) which ends up being January 7 by the Gregorian/civil calendar. Anyhoooooo, I am writing because I have been thinking a lot during this fasting period about my life, as it is and what it will be. Maybe because I am going to be 30 this next birthday, am I putting a little more thought into things...maybe just simply because of where I am spiritually in my journey. Perhaps just a combo of the two. I have been feeling like I am shown to myself, in pieces, as if broken, but more like those tangram pieces that they give you in math class and can make many different shapes by putting them together. I sort of feel like I am looking at myself in bits and pieces and trying to figure out the picture it should make. Feeling like I want to change the shape and picture of myself, but not truly knowing how to do it without slipping back into old habits and just letting the former shape fill the places out of familiarity. I am thinking that I need to start with one piece at a time, the foundation. Well, that seems like the easy one, God. Hmmm, easier said than I do everything God asks of me? In my own limited and simple capabilities, like a child still learning? Yes. In the way I know in my heart and mind to be the entirety of my ability? No. There is that fine line there, where one starts and the other stops, is a mystery, but perhaps one day I can fulfill the merging of the two, the bringing together of the physical self and motivation with the heart and mind. That maybe my capabilities can serve the heart and mind in God,...well there is a blasted novel idea! Is there a right way for us to come to God? Is there a right way for us to grow in God? This is what I figure...we are given tools, from God, to come to Him, to lay down ourselves and take up our crosses to follow Him. If God was truly standing before me, in the figure of Christ the Man, what would I do? Well, honestly I don't know, but I would hope that I would fall down and ask forgiveness. Why is it that it is usually during the Great Lent that I find myself better prostrate before God, in heart, mind and body? Perhaps it is God's infinite mercy that we are given things in stages, the feasts throughout the year that bring us the eventuality of His crucifixion after we pass through Great Lent. I know I should rejoice that it does not seem so difficult during the fast of the Nativity, but I know in my heart that it is perhaps a new realization, like levels on my spiritual journey. The real struggle seems to lie in finding and holding onto Christ and God through the holiday season, where Santa and snowmen have become the icons of our country and representatives of Christmas. In a place where it is taboo to even say Merry Christmas anymore for possibly offending someone who does not celebrate it, for Christ's birth or not. Pete sakes! Not to mention, the big fat guy in a suit is the commercialized version of St Nicholas, a REAL man and Bishop of the very early Church and the reason for our stockings being filled secretly in the night (cuz he really did that). We have a way of becoming morphed into the new, societal ways in life through temptation and acting as if it was always that way. Where do I go with that? How do I continue through every year? How do I teach my child Truth, the unwavering Truth of God? I will live it, as we live through each feast of the liturgical year as it was when it happened, to the best of my ability. On Nativity, on Christmas, I will go to church and fellowship and eat with like-minded individuals who are truly rejoicing in the birth of our Saviour as we do every year. I would like to celebrate it with friends and family if it were possible and I will leave that to God's will. I will be saying, joyfully, "Christ is Born!" To which I will get a reply, perhaps with more joy and reverence than my own declaration, "Glorify Him!" So, how do I put my pieces together as they are laid before me? How do I find out the shape of myself without reverting back to MY old habits? Start with God and trust that He will show me the way to Him through the everyday of my life. It may sound simple, but it is an uphill battle. I will hold fast to the teachings and traditions of the Church given to us, to the family and friends (who are really family) who God has given us in His mercy to help us along in our struggles to aid us in our journey, to learn things in a new light, to find myself looking at a picture of myself that is created while I am looking to God for answers because all things are possible through God in His mercy and Love. I will consider this, the turning of a new leaf, the start of my next journey that has been waiting to begin for quite sometime but my spiritual legs needed to be stronger to last the length. These concepts are not particularly new, but I am now feeling strong enough to take on the challenge without taking two steps back each time I try. So the end of this blog is really the beginning of the next step in my life. Here's to remembering and keeping the old along with embracing the new. With all my Love and Faith in Christ our God, until next time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Mommy, who is the pirate?"

Yesterday at our time for volunteering at church, Katherine and I were alone for a bit and it has been awhile since that has happened. Petra and Taia were running late and I just figured there was a good reason for it, both for them AND us. Taisia was still asleep and that little dear gets precious little napping as it is and I am glad she slept, very glad! Oh how I remember those days! So Katherine and I went in to say hello to our friendly, familiar Saints found in their same old spots, just waiting for us as if we had never gone. Katherine is up on my hip, big as ever and how she grew so much I will never know. It is so quiet but for the creaking of the boards in our aging floor, not to mention the ticking of the ancient heater. So familiar and nice.
It started out in a normal sort of way when Katherine asked which Saint was which, St Panteleimon, St Sergei, St Xenia and St Nicholas and from there she wanted to know about one across church. She pointed and asked and I thought she was asking about the Royal Martyrs on the wall when she said, "that big one..." So we went across and when we got there she corrected me and directed me to the table of the departed right next to it, the only candle stand that she can reach and does often =) She asked about who are the other women there with the Mother of God and those guys on the other side and such. We discussed it a bit and then she asked me, "Mommy, who is the pirate?" I said, "What pirate?" I am thinking, "What THE....?" She pointed and I saw what she meant...the skull of Adam is at the foot of Christ on the Cross and Christ's blood is flooding down to free Adam. As I have heard it told, the cross was placed above the spot where Adam was buried all those years earlier and that the Earth shook and cracked open and Christ's blood fell on Adam's skull. Firstly, we talked about how that is what it looks like under our skin and that is Adam's skull (she has learned about Adam and Eve in church school so she is at least familiar). Then we talked about how it is so important that we see this, because God became a Man and shed His blood and now Adam didn't have to be in the 'Naughty" place anymore. (In all honesty, how else do you explain hell to a 4 year old, I figure, just words they know...) We talked about how we get to be with God in a special way when we have communion and she said, "because we have God in us...." Just take a minute and think about that. Anyone who has a child will understand when there are times you cannot describe a moment, the precious few moments that we are afforded to see inside of their little heads. I think what surprised me is that I not only had answers for her, but that she had just as many answers for me. We went on to talk about the Apostles and Angels and what it is like in Heaven. She pointed out how lots of the Angels had "poky things" (spears) so we talked about why that is (to be the warriors of Heaven and keep out all the evil angels who have chosen their fate) and how we want to go to Heaven and take the place of one of the fallen angels and sing there with all the ranks of Angels. "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal!"
I have given it a little thought and I am increasingly glad to have the plethora of Icons in our church. For children, particularly those that don't read, it is so nice to have illustrations of people who have gone before us in our christian family as well as scenes from the Bible. If we are to enter the kingdom of Heaven as a child, what better place to start than searching the faces of our ancestors and re-evaluating the stories of the Bible God has given us for our own Hope and Salvation, especially through eyes of our children. They are such great tools to have in aiding us on our journey. That a child can learn so much and understand more than I can imagine through the depiction on the wall is so beyond my mind. And so it should be. The innocence of a child is known only to God and the child, and throughout our lives we can recapture glimpses of ours that we have lost in the faces and words of a our children, and at times, other peoples kids. We can see our own faults so sweetly held up by the mirror image of our child's face. So much sweetness, so much hope, so much Love! It is THAT love of a child that we should find ourselves magnifying as we turn our hearts to God: pure and loving with total trust. If God gives me enough time, I hope to grow up to be the person my daughter sees when she looks at me. Lord have Mercy on me, a sinner. I look forward to many more lessons about God from my little girl!