Our intention was to make it to Liturgy, but then on Saturday we woke up all red and raw and barking like seals and so we canceled our plans, involving a festive St. Nicholas Day celebration at the Orthodox Church in Merrillville, and opted for a quiet feast day at home including mugs of hot chocolate spiked with Dayquil. The children set out their shoes, like always, in a row from smallest to biggest by the front door. They placed in them carrots for St. Nicholas' donkey and curled up in their beds with excitement, anxious as all get out for the sun to rise so they could run downstairs and see for themselves the treats he'd leave behind in exchange for their offering of belief and fresh produce. "Is he staying for a sleepover?" asked three year-old Mary before finally drifting off on Friday evening. And I imagined us in our jammies eating breakfast the next morning across the table from the kindly bishop holding a staff in his hands and glowing boldly with a passion for mercy, goodness, love and truth. "I wish he could," I whispered, mostly to myself since little Mary had already started in with those last massive breaths and tiny twitches signaling sleep was overtaking her.
There are many things - many, many, many - that I treasure about the Church and this is one of them. Few events have so spiritually enriched my soul as much as the shattering of my concept of an impassible brick wall between this world and the next I had once thought shielded those who had passed on through death from the pain of earthly sorrows and unpleasantries. A "curtain" is how I now understand it, thin and gauzy. Within our grasp, within earshot, stand a host of righteous ancestors interceding on our behalf and communing with us and inspiring us to keep on despite the syrupy, hollow, sweet-talking lies and distractions suggesting I'm crazy, fanatical to a fault, ridiculous for sweating and often crying my way up a path rife with mountains and dangerous twists and turns never found on the wide and smooth yellow brick road known as compromise, lukewarmness, indulgence.
It's hard to rise above the catalogs from Target displaying all I've ever wanted topped with red satin bows, drool inducing commercials for MacBooks, iPhones, digital cameras...(ooh, a Kodak camera with 12x optical zoom - c'mon now, Molly, focus!) and oh yes, a brand new Lexus for that someone really special, parties merry, but lacking, I mean completely void of anything having to do with Christ and His incarnation or our salvation made possible by the gift of God taking on flesh and living, and then dying, among us, but try I must. And here, so close to Nativity, is the feast day of St. Nicholas, our beloved St. Nicholas, our living, victorious example of Christ-like generosity beckoning our attention away from cheeriness for its own sake and onto joy rooted in substance that doesn't end, but rather truly begins, on the 26th of December. Here, so close, when I reach for it by way of prayer and the sacraments and fasting, is all the sustenance I could ever need to keep trekking undeterred toward the Source of all life and all purpose and all meaning, despite the hardships required for my ultimate purification and refinement. Here, so close and yet so easily overshadowed by my attraction to what is shiny and easy and soothing for the moment...
Oh Holy Saint Nicholas, pray to God for me!
5 days ago