Monday, September 27, 2010

Nothing Much to Say

Nothing much to say is right!

I should call you all to see what's going on in your part of the globe.

We are at a bit of a stand still in our efforts to apply for visas. It is another one of those wait on the Lord periods where there is some reason or event that will show why we have to wait, but we don't know at this time.  Until then everyday is a gift. 

Did you ever get something that you didn't want for your birthday.  For me it was when I turned 6 or 7 and I got a new bicycle, gold and white with a sparkly gold banana seat and monkey handle bars.  My parents had put me in a room alone to wait for the surprise.  Here it was my party and I had to be separated from the group. I felt exiled. 

Then when they opened up the door and I saw the bicycle, I was overwhelmed with tears and frustration.  I hated the bike and I wanted them to take it away.  I behaved like it was the ugliest thing I had ever seen and through my tears, I let my parents know it.  My father was crushed I am sure.  My mother appeared to be so disappointed in me.  My friends were confused because they thought it was the coolest thing in the world.

So while we live this time of exile from our familiar life, we do what we can to appreciate the gift.  After all, once I was over the disappointment of my separation, I really liked the bicycle and my friends all wanted to ride it.  That was a surprise to me more than the gift itself. 

So in our time of "exile", by God's grace we go to church when there is a Liturgy no matter what the day, and we recover the Pearl of Great Price, while we wait.

For the Conception of Saint Elizabeth of Saint John the Baptist there were only 5 or 7 people in the Liturgy at Annunciation.  I don't intend to think or to say that it was disappointing or sad.  Better: it was a blessing to have been there with those few people because it was so beautiful.

The beauty took my mind back to that place far away, a long time ago, when people didn't have to work the way we do today, neither were there the distractions of our current times. In those days there would be at least one representative from each family or clan at the Liturgy, no matter what day of the week it was. It was a blessing to be there and there wasn't anything "better to do".

The first time we went there it was 1974. Life in the USA was a lot like it is now but with not so many kids on soccer teams, and of course no PC's and no internet, and no cell phones.  We call those simpler times I know. 

Lipsi as it looks today

When we went to Lipsi that year, it was even simpler still. There were only two places that I had seen with televisions. Most families had a donkey or a chicken, or a goat, or a little row boat, or all of that! When my sister heard the goats coming by our aunt's house she was sure that it was the icecream truck.  I seem to recall that she was just as happy to see the parade of goats going by, and she had learned to listen for the sound of the yogurt vendor  instead, who would call out to us from his donkey, which also served as a cart.

 Compare that with the island now that has had an ATM for years, an internet cafe, and mobile phones for sale in more than one shop.  Even with only 800 residents that little place can keep in step with our grandiosity. Granted it could not be the same some 35 years later.  But back then, Church was the place to be.  It was a great witness to me as a girl having grown up in the USA, where I needed my parents to drive me to church on Sunday mornings.  There on the island, we all walked to Liturgy.  There was something about it that was precious.  I could go independently at the age of 11. And that was an experience in itself. The transition from home to the church was so slow and sublte. It went in pace with your heartbeat, or your breathing.

It was that way at the seminary when I went to Hellenic College.  We walked from the dorms to the chapel for every service.  I can recall feeling different levels of anticipation as I approached.  I can remember becoming more mindful of one person or another as they also approached.  As each press of my foot brought me closer to the doors of the church, both on the island and at the seminary, I could feel my heart's anticipation for the events that were going to take place inside. I think that I would have welcomed an even longer walk if there could have been one.

Back then, the beauty of the services was the same as it is today.  It is one Beauty that we preceive in the Liturgy.  The number of people there can't change it. If we think that more people matter it is not because we are trying to make it more popular, but because it is important to our God. I can't say what the Lord feels about us going to church.  I just know what a lot of trouble He went to, to make sure that we could be in the Liturgy. So for that reason, I too am glad the more people I see.  But it doesn't change the beauty of the Liturgy. 

I guess that I will be talking a lot about the little island homeland of my family while I write.  It helps when I want to put things into a perspective that I cannot reach directly from my modern life.  A memory of the island in its simpler times engages different thoughts. The only places that seem to embrace that simplicity that I know are the monasteries.  Maybe that's what people crave when they go camping or boating.  I can remember the Abbess Taxiarhia of blessed memory trying to convey to me the blessedness of silence in one's life. I remember how she let me talk about it while she tried to convey it's significance without words. 

The little island spoke volumes to me about silence and how much we need it in our human experience, not as a time for reflection, but as a time of emptiness and readiness to receive. Reflection can be noisy, and it happens many times before the real silence comes.  Not having enough quiet time, many of us only get to the point of refection, but rarely to silence. But according to the teachings of Father Sophrony, the spiritual son of Saint Silouan, we need to have true silence to pray, and prayer towards our creator is essential to being truly human.

Last Sunday was the feast day of Saint John the Theologian.  He is very special to the people of the island of Lipso and to me since some of my earliest memories.  Have you ever read the or listened to the hymns that praise him.

Saint John the Theologian celebrated September 26

A son of thunder you became* and you theologized for all* saying that In the beginning* was the Word, O Apostle John.* For when with faith you leaned against* your Master's chest, as one beloved, * you drew from there theology* like rivers of living water, * and (you) irrigate all creation.

This beautiful hymn was sung during Orthros. We learn so much from such hymns.  How can we compare our noisesome learning with his?  He learned theology from being so beloved of Christ that he was able with ease to rest his head on the chest of his Master, ready in silence and in emptying himself to receive grace and love from the Lord.

We are starting to look for shipping companies or moving companies to transport our few things to New Zealand.  We thought that this should have been done earlier.  Now we are getting information that we could not have had in Albuquerque because of contacts that we have made since, and we can start to make comparisons. YES I do wish I didn't have to think about this still, but how can I complain about what God has provided?

Many of our freinds are interested in the activities of the children.  They are in school.  Nothing more. Nicholia is looking for some temporary work too. We spent our last weekend with friends on a boat on a lake.  It was very satisfying. We wonder if we will be called to leave before the girls have completed their classes at the community college.  I want to consider staying here until they are done if it is blessed, and if Father Paul is called to be in New Zealand sooner than that, maybe we can tolerate a short separation so that we can complete things peacefully. If we do stay until then, I might get a chance to go to my High School class reunion which is happening in November instead of Jully... when they usually do it....and when I wouldn't have been able to go due to our moving preparations.  Father Paul isn't sure he wants to go to my class reunion anyway.

Happy belated Feast Day (nameday) to all those who celebrated with Saint John the Theologian!

Be well!

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