casa benecida

This afternoon Fr. came to bless our house. This has never been done before. A few years ago I remarked on that fact to a friend, and she told me that with John and me living here, the house is certainly blessed. Well, but not really. Not like now!

John told me he had set up the appointment and I immediately started forming a list of cleaning chores. Because, you know, I cannot have a dirty house blessed. I keep a fairly tidy house, seeing it’s part of my vocation and all, but this place was as clean today as it ever is at one time. Cleaned within an inch of its life. I even cleaned out the fridge, (and I can explain why it’s called buttermilk-ewwww) because one must have clean vegetable bins! Oh yes! Mini blinds? Dusted. Ceiling fan? Dusted. I couldn’t reach the cobwebs in the skylight and to my horror, ten minutes before Fr. was due to arrive, I realized I hadn’t cleaned the oven. You laugh. Go ahead. It’s okay, because I’m laughing too.

The funny thing is, I have a feeling that it all was entirely unnecessary. Because we are blessed how we are, even as we try to become something else. Soooo…while I strive to be immaculate in housekeeping, I am not, nor do I actually think it’s possible or even desirable. Really what I want is a comfortable house, and I’m not sure I achieve that. I am not comfortable here the way I was in my mom’s various places of residence, or in my grandparent’s house. I’ve often thought about this: is it the floorplan? The furnishings? I think it’s a state of mind or being rather than a reflection of the physical plant (take that, feng shui). Although, my mom and my grandparents had neat houses. I am not sure what to do about it, other than quit being so obsessive about housekeeping. I really, really want my children to be comfortable here, you know, to like being here better than being anywhere else.

My children are different than their parents. John and I both preferred our rooms as children, we could spend endless hours in there by ourselves. We are both introverts. (Shocking, I know). We have been blessed with extroverted children who would much rather spend every waking moment outside their rooms in family space. I’m not sure what to make of it…besides thinking, “What is wrong with you children?”

So, Fr. arrives, carrying a beautiful vestment all folded up, and a cross, and we get some icons (all three of them that we have) and a bowl for water and a few palm fronds (because Home Depot had big palms on sale for $8.80, and I bought one, and it’s now by a south window practically on top of a heater vent, doing surprisingly well but I have little hope). Fr. sets it up on the counter and says some prayers over the water. During this time William is walking back and forth bringing in toys to set next to the icons. GI Joe, and then his rifle. Fr. was amused, and I was horrified. Then he starts walking around the house blessing! And what am I thinking? Yes, you guessed it. Will those little drops of water leave spots on my antiques? I am just that pathetic.

Later, I decided I would be proud of the spots, if there were any. I haven’t noticed any. Of course I looked. I almost kind of wish I could see one, because it would remind me that this house has been blessed. It will remind me, like Fr. said, that without God, we have nothing. Well he said something like that: we cannot survive without water and we cannot survive without God. And my children who will likely inherit these antiques someday will know the same thing. They will be blessed. Hopefully they won’t be so fanatic about dust either.

unworthy

I went to Orthros and Divine Liturgy this last Tuesday for the feast day of St. Cyril and St. Athanasios. I got there about ten minutes early (unorthodox, I know), and the doors were still locked, so I rang the bell. The secretary let me in, apparently unaware that there was another liturgy after having one Monday morning. She told me Father wasn’t there yet.

I went into the church to wait, and after reverencing the icon of Christ, I sat to pray for awhile. I was filled with the sense of my unworthiness to be graced with such a church, and tears filled my eyes. I sat, and thought, “I am here all alone.” At that moment, it hit me. I was surrounded… there was the Theotokos, and John the Baptist, St. Cyril, St. Constantine, St. Basil, and many, many more. I was surrounded by the saints. At this, the sense of unworthiness deepened. “How shall I, who am unworthy, enter into the splendor of Your saints? If I dare to enter into the bridal chamber, my clothing will accuse me, since it is not a wedding garment; and being bound up, I shall be cast out by the angels. In Your love, Lord, cleanse my soul and save me.”

Father L. came in with J., who was reading that morning, about fifteen minutes late. He greeted me warmly, and asked if I could do something for him. I had no idea what request was to come, but said “yes” unhesitatingly. He pointed out there had been a liturgy yesterday, and the cleaning service hadn’t been in yet, and would I please sweep the floor of crumbs (from the antitheron) while he finished his preparations?

“Yes, Father.”

He and I went into one of the vestment rooms and he handed me the crumb sweeper. As I started, the old (Anglican) prayer came to mind, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.” Again my eyes brimmed over. For five minutes or so I gathered up the crumbs. As I finished, Joan came over to me.

“Father would like you to read with me if you would like to.”

Grace flooded my soul, mind, and body as I followed Joan up to the lectern. I read the Psalms and alternated reading some other parts that were not chanted, sung the kyries and other standard sung responses and once we got to Divine Liturgy, I was able to sing the main hymns of the liturgy as well. It was, in a word, awesome. I so desire to learn to chant the rest that I can hardly stand it.

I still felt unworthy, but it no longer mattered. We are all unworthy, but we have a Lord who is worthy, and that is enough for me.

I do still have a job, for those who were wondering, although a good friend with whom I’ve worked for over seven years was not so lucky. Please pray for C., and for the other thousands who lost their jobs last Saturday. (I probably just gave away where I work to those who follow business news…)

merciful blessings

It was fitting to have the privilege of attending two baptisms on the weekend of the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. I enjoyed both of them very much. It was nice seeing our many friends on Saturday at Rose’s baptism . . .

Sunday’s Liturgy was one that I just loved. The whole service that morning was working on me, in a good way. There were many little distractions, from the occasionally imperfect chant to the kids being extra squirrelly, and for me it made the service even more real, and I was was aware at just how much I needed to be there, and how much we all need to do the work of the church. It was a wonderful service, followed by the amazing lunch (more than a coffee hour) hosted by our Deacon and his wife. There was about an hour between the service and the baptism, and after lunch was done, I had 45 minutes to run the kids around in the windy, but sunny, day outside. I ended up talking with a dear lady named Jelena (I think that is how it is spelled) for a time, and for some reason I just felt a deep peace. By the time the baptism started, I was really there.

Even though there were many spots in the baptismal service I could barely hear, I was on the edge of joyful tears most of the service. The exorcism and triple renunciation of Satan, facing west, and then spitting as a sign of that renunciation, follow by turning east and ‘turning to Christ’ and accepting Him with the creed was really awesome. When Eleni was blessed with the oil of chrism, I could feel the happiness and the dampness on my cheeks from my tears. I could tell the rest of the family was getting tired after the hour of the baptismal service, but I just wanted to stay in the church forever… I wanted to prostrate myself before the altar, because I was so aware of how unworthy I am to be there, and how despite that God invites me there. Please forgive me. Great mercy! The blessing of it all was almost intolerable, but I could hardly get enough. I felt like I was going crazy, the passion was so strong, and I left with the hymns in my head… “Αγιος ο Θεός, Αγιος Ισχυρός, Αγιος Αθάνατος, ελέησον ημάς! Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us!”

I went for a bicycle ride later in the afternoon, and the sun was so warm. The day was bright, and winter seemed far, far away. While that grace has carried me through to even this moment, I must ask for your prayers, for myself, and for my co-workers.

This Friday or Saturday will be layoffs. It could be 10-15% of our Denver branch, 300 or so people, maybe more, maybe less. I think I am in a relatively safe position for now, and am not as worried about myself, (although it probably is not good to be over-certain of my status) but I worry very much over my friends in other parts of the company. Lord, have mercy upon us all.