Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I should be writing papers,

Photo by The Cleveland Kid
Or praying the Akathist for Healing from Cancer.

Instead, I am going to throw myself on faith and write these prayers of thanksgiving. But, I swear, they are damp. They are soaked in salt and water.

For sparrows, Dearest God, I am thankful. 
For Julia Sparrow, I am thankful. And, for learning today that in medieval times, February 14 was a midpoint, a day that birds began to sing for their spring return.

Tonight there are ashes on the foreheads of my friends who are Western Christians, to remind them
from ashes and dust we came, and from the ashes and dust of Christ's death, when we are crucified with Him, we are resurrected too.
I remember how strange it was to sit in an ESL certification class four years ago with a room full of women and men, heads smeared with ash streak. I've never been marked with ashes, but at our vigils, priests annoint our foreheads with holy oil in the same cross shape. The beginning of Eastern Great Lent is weeks off for us this year. On Wednesday of the first week, we gather for the blessing of the holy oil and annointing. It is a reminder that our bodies are fragile, made whole again, only by healing and the action of God. Grace. In the west, they sing "grace means unmerited favor." In the east, grace is the energy of God.

I hope in Grace. My hope is in God.

On this night, I am reminded we are fragile, made of things that get sick, mutate and break. I am reminded that sparrows rise up again. His eye is on them as they fly back and make nests. They sing while they do this, trusting in the humble rhythm of new life and hope. Birth and Resurrection. I am reminded that winter, so frozen in death's grip, lasts only for a season. Then God sends along spring.
For the genius of my sister Naomi, and her husband Andy who gave Julia the middle name Sparrow, I am thankful. What mysteries at how these meanings can unfold to us in crises. How I hope this means something to them as well.

Tonight, Great Lent begins for you in Western Christendom and Lent is called Joyful Sorrow. It is a sojourn in a desert of repentance, pointing towards the glorious resurrection by which we have life. Sorrow holds its grip only so long. And, God mixes rainbows with rain storms. He gave us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.

Oh, our cloaks tonight feel like cement, like so many ashes compacted together to be bricks. But I cling to those sparrows flying up from the South, singing. 

Oh, Death where is thy sting? O Grave where is thy victory? 

I cling to a hope I cannot see, whose proof someone might dispute. If the worst happened, I am fragile. I too am breakable. Last Sunday, my husband homilized that faith calls for the courage of the Canaanite woman, the one who wanted her daughter to be healed. Christ implied that she was a dog, seeking crumbs from the master's table. She did not shrink away from him after that. Oh No! She had the courage to approach that table, his body and his face and ask for life.

Life is something my family gives me, even now. I am thankful that Naomi and Andy named their eldest in a special way-- Eddie, for my grandfather, who died on the Eve of Thanksgiving. Remember, Eucharist means thanksgiving. I am reminded whenever I picture I see of my grandfather, in his boisterous days and his tired old ones, that he was ever joyful, ever fixed on Christ His Savior and ever thankful. He prayed for every one of us by name, every day. His booming voice waking me up. He was one of God's sparrows singing like a king. Every name he sang, every name of every child and grandchild. My grandmother next to him, saying, "Amen" at the end of his praying.

I am thankful for you, Naomi and Andy. I am thankful I get to be in this family. I am reminded that in your faces, in your joys and sorrows, in your service, in your children, I see the face of God. 
I have been humming, "There is a Redeemer, Jesus, God's own Son, Precious Lamb of God, Messiah, Holy One." I couldn't figure out why, until I remember the refrain: "Thank you, O My Father, For giving us Your Son, and leaving your Spirit until Your work on earth is done." 

I'm supposed to be writing tonight a critical paper on Kathleen Norris' Meditations on Mary, which is largely segments of Scripture, many paintings of Mary's life, and a couple of essays. I was going to begin that this book was truly about meditating by looking on the paintings of Mary until we see in her the icon of her Son, her Savior and ours. When I look up the faces of my family, I know there too is the icon of the Savior written. Glory to God in all Things! (PS. That phrase originates from St. John Chrysostom, who said this as he was dying in exile. Fr. Gregory Petrov wrote an Akathist of Thanksgiving, using those words, from his prison, shortly before his death in 1940. The akathist is a song of praise from a place of the worst sufferings.)

No comments:

Post a Comment