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Monday, July 28, 2014

Incense on our Mountain, and the Gift of Music

St. Seraphim of Sarov icon near the church doors
 (the "old" St. Seraphim of Sarov Church in Anapa, Russia), 
Alexei Zoubov

There are advantages to mountain living. One of them is spending ordinary days in a place where others travel to spend vacations. There are disadvantages too, like driving an hour to church every Sunday morning. Occasionally though, both poles of the dichotomy collide. This month, we've been able to drive five minutes to church with people who are on vacation, sort of, at the local Orthodox summer camp.

I've always known it was there - all these years that I've rested, impatient but easy, on the knowledge that our path would lead to Orthodoxy. Nights under a star packed sky, as I've sat on our deck facing gazing upon the mountain and contemplating our tiny family's place in the Christian constellation, it has been an ever present beacon on the landscape of our forest home. A camp sharing a corner of our canopy of pines - a place where incense rises. It has been a familiar companion, but one we have not accessed before now.

I don't think we've ever driven a mere five miles to church.  We've always lived at least 55 miles away from our parish home. Our five minute trips to camp have taught us a few things.  One was that other people can get up at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  Imagine that.  Another was that there are, in fact, Orthodox young adults.  Not in tiny mountain towns, perhaps, but they exist. As we've barged in upon their Sunday mornings, we've been grateful for the kind hospitality of seeming strangers who share our walk with Christ.

Muir Woods National Monument, California, USA /
Personal picture taken by user Urban, 2004 {{GFDL}}
We've learned other things. We were impacted by music this weekend. Living with a daughter who has many years of choir under her belt, and having come from an Anglican parish with a proud heritage of really good music, we are not unaware of the impact of music on spiritual life. Personally, I don't have much talent for it, but we all know the power of those who do. Standing in a tiny wooden chapel, under the gaze of saints and through the haze of incense, we were blessed by the voices of a fine, yet likely makeshift, summer choir- most particularly, the really fine voice of one young man whom we do not know and almost assuredly never will.  My husband stood at the sink at home in our little cabin after liturgy and said, "that is the best Orthodox liturgy I have experienced to date." I don't know how to describe the reasons it was so good. Something about enunciation and plosives and other music speak that did not really register with my linguistic speech pathologist brain while Elyse explained it on the way home. But, it was a gift.

As I reflect on it today, I realize that we have been given a gift by some tall kid with glasses and a really exquisite voice, but he'll almost certainly never know that. In the same vein, but in sharp contrast, I'm sure that through the years, I've sown pain into the lives of others without even knowing it; - a poorly considered word here; impatience there - I'm sure it has happened a multitude of times. We have such power, as individuals, to bless and heal, or to harm. Something like the children of vacation renters who crush our tiny newly sprouted baby pines under foot while they run rough shod over the forest floor. They cannot begin to realize that the 300 foot Jeffrey pine to their left would not exist had one of their fore bearers done the same many decades back. Honestly, they're just playing in the snow. What then, of our own choices in the lives of others?  What impact might we have?

I'm grateful for the endowments others have bestowed upon me through my 47 years. Kindnesses remembered. I'm sorry too, for the harms I have surely dealt. May they be healed by the hand of One who is love. And God bless the tall kid with the glasses. Thank you for an experience that has shored us up in our journey to Orthodoxy.

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? 
~Micah 6:8

Pax Christi dear readers,
your comments and kindnesses have blessed our family life,

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