I found myself at the library recently yanking books like “Raising Kids with Character,” ”How to Behave so your Children will Behave” and “How to Reason with Tweens without Pulling Every Last Hair Out of Your Head” off the shelf. “I’m in a bit of a parenting rut,” I told the librarian, with my eyes.
It happens sometimes. The six of us Sabourins can drive each other crazy. Priscilla wrote a poem for class recently, which included the lines:
Hurry, Hurry to school in the morning
My mom is freaking out …
How embarrassingly true that despite my concerted efforts to remain calm, cool and collected while trying to get my four kids (and husband) dressed, fed and out the door (with a packed lunch and homework in hand) by 7:45 am, I’ve been known to become, somewhat comically, unhinged:
ARE YOU UP THERE R-E-E-E-ADING!?!
I WANT YOU IN THAT MINIVAN WITH YOUR TEETH BRUSHED AND SHOES TIED IN 15 S-E-C-O-N-D-S!”
Still, though, despite the bickering, the headaches, the oft mindboggling messes, the late night second-guessing of some of my choices as a mom, I’m in love, love, love with this riotous clan I am privileged to belong to.
Filling their bellies, holding them in my arms, making them laugh, them making me laugh, being serenaded by the sound of their continuous singing, comforting them, being so needed by them, overwhelms me every-once-in-a-while (I wish it were more often) with gratitude, and a keen awareness of how crazy, incredibly blessed I am.
Yes, my grass, this patchy grass right here on this side - my side, is more than green enough.
All I need, to thrive and learn and grow, is what I’ve already got.
That’s what’s on my mind this Friday of Bright Week: family, faith and forgiveness.
I am dependent on all three.
you’ve got me all perplexed, exhausted, desiring to be better.
(on three hours of sleep)
It never gets old, does it? After entering that time warp of Holy Thursday, Friday and Saturday – fighting the grumpiness that set in precisely because it was Holy Thursday, Friday and Saturday and it felt like everything in this world wanted me to forget, overlook the cross (to stay home and putz around) – we were starving for Pascha.
Bleary eyed and all decked out in colors bright and celebratory (some women in our parish have taken to festive hat wearing on Pascha, which I most certainly condone, and am tempted to follow suit next year), we arrived at 11:30 pm for the Feast of all Feasts. I was nauseous with exhaustion, hungry from fasting, brimming with excitement. The Pascha service is packed to overflowing with truth and a fullness you can sink your teeth into. This is why I am! I'm reminded, which is a powerful realization. I so needed that! I always need it.
When St. John Chrysostom's Paschal Homily was read a rush of relief and renewed determination washed over me:
O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.
(whew! I get teary just copying and pasting that)
All that night and into the morning, we reveled in the Resurrection, in the breaking of the fast, in our love and appreciation for one another:
At 5:00 am, we crashed into our beds only to awake at 8:00 am and begin celebrating all over again. Sunday was a happy, happy day – an amalgam of laughter, champagne, fellowship and meat…and chocolate.
But I was nostalgic as well – a little achy, missing those friends, family members and godparents scattered here and there and everywhere. I wished, as always, I could have magically gathered them all up into one place, into my old creaky house, that we might sing "Christ is Risen!" together.
I am still thinking about you, still missing you. Below is a Paschal Greeting from our family to yours (it will make you wonder, I'm sure, why we don't just get a bus and take our show on the road Partridge Family style)! And now I'm off to recover – it's going to take awhile.
Christ is Risen!!! Rejoice!
When my eight-year-old joins in the reciting of the Nicene Creed during Divine Liturgy, he tends to LOUDLY emphasize what he’s mastered of it while kind of stumbling through the rest. It’s like he’s got this volume dial attached to his throat and someone’s recklessly fiddling with it, turning the sound way up then down again, up then down, up then down. “I BELIEVE,” he sings (or sort of yells), “inonbladahada ALMIGHTY, makahanawatermelonallthingsvisa AND INVISIBLE, andiwonlogeeza CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD…" and so on and so forth until the big final “A-A-A-MEN.” That boy is not waiting, no siree, until he’s got the whole thing down to jump in and participate. And I, for one, find that inspiring.
For Orthodox Christians, Holy Week is all consuming. Every item on my to-do list at the moment revolves solely around it. It is beyond containable in that its depth, fullness, girth is incomprehensible. Services swollen with theology, mystery, beauty and significance layer one upon another. When we’re not physically in Church, we’re busy preparing to be in Church serenaded by the hymns we’ve just been hearing while at Church playing on repeat in our minds like a heavenly soundtrack.
Last night, for example, us Sabourins ate dinner, hurried through homework, changed into clothes less stained and grungy looking then headed to our home parish for Bridegroom Matins. We were late, I must admit, and a couple of my kids, once we got there, seemed to forget how to stand up straight, resorting instead to buckling at the knees all dramatic like every few seconds – and for sure there was some whining. I spent a good portion of my evening focused primarily on getting my troops back in line. I was distracted, yes, but still the incense, the prayers, those lilting hymns were permeating my person. Those few snippets of the service I managed to catch hold of were golden and weighty – enough to heighten my awareness of things holy and redemptive- enough to raise (again) my broken and banal thoughts from out of the gutter.
Like my son, I hummed along with the parts I’m still slowly becoming familiar with, inserting actual words when I happened to know them, even as I had one eye and ear on my sometimes squirrely children, even as my mind wandered and I had to work on reigning it in. When we reached the Troparion, however, I was mercifully in tune with my celestial surroundings and I belted it out with gusto. I’ve been chewing on this all morning:
When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of their feet
before the supper,
Then the impious Judas was darkened, ailing with avarice,
and to the lawless judges he betrays Thee, the righteous Judge.
Behold, O lover of money, this man who because of money hanged himself.
Flee from the greedy soul which dared such things against the Master.
O Lord who art good towards all men, glory to Thee!
I can't express how much I appreciate the Church not merely sprinkling us with the awesome truth of Christ's death and Resurrection but rather dousing us in it, planting it all obvious and gigantic right smack in the middle of my every day plans and priorities so there's no way I can miss it or belittle it. I am grateful my routine has been upheaved, inconvenienced by the Cross. My groggy soul's been shaken awake! Thanks be to God.
the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible
It took those last days of Lent to really drive the point home that salvation is wildly unpredictable. It's not something I understand – why seasons of spiritual earnestness must be punctuated here and there with unforeseen episodes of crashing and burning. I take comfort always in the example of the Apostle Peter who thrice denied his beloved Christ, and beat his breast over it, was wracked with agonizing regret, and yet came through to the other side of that self-disgust more in awe of his Christ- Jesus' Passion, His controversial message of humility and Love, His miraculous Resurrection – than ever.
This year, I'm approaching Holy Week like the prodigal son, head bowed, still reeking of my infirmities and foolishness, more keenly aware than usual of how thoroughly undeserving I am of this the Feast of all Feasts. Does this not blow your mind?!
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
- from St. John Chrysostom's Paschal Homily
Holy Week and Pascha contain the purest Joy there is – Joy unattached to circumstances or accomplishments, unfettered by potential loss – Joy whole, complete, in and of itself – Joy untainted by disappointment, Joy undiluted, Joy victorious! I feel hope welling up like a spring in my soul, that just a little while ago had seemed dry and barren as a desert. I'm preparing for Jesus' death with a song of triumph on my lips: Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen!Read More
Well, we've finally arrived here, at this holiest of weeks. Can you believe it?
I cannot adequately describe what Holy Week looks like, feels like, can't sum it up in a nutshell; words fail me.
That which is temporal will be miraculously, mercifully, eclipsed by what is eternal.
No, I cannot digest it, only fearfully enter into it, all too aware, now more than ever, of my desperate need for a Savior – for both His cross and His Resurrection.
I come expectantly.
I am aching for Pascha.Read More