St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Monday, December 23, 2002 ::

A Strange and Beautiful Encounter

As a convert to the Orthodox Faith, it always surprises me to encounter the perspective of cradles from the "old country." My wife and I had a strange but enlightening experience with one such woman on Sunday.

We were scheduled to make lunch for the parish after Liturgy this past Sunday (each family takes a turn 3-4 times a year making lunch for the parish). As we were cleaning up the last few dishes and locking up the parish hall, a refined older woman (60ish) came running up to the back door asking if the priest was still here.

When we told her "no," she was surprised and a little sad. With a Polish accent, she asked us why the church wasn't open all day. "In my country," she said, "Orthodox Church is open at all times." She then asked us if she could come in and write down a list of people she wanted prayed for at the next Liturgy. She said she needed to hurry because her (non-Orthodox) husband brought her on a special trip to an Orthodox Church and she didn't want to keep him waiting.

The first thing I learned was her definition of "hurry" was nothing like mine!

We sat down with her and for the next 20+ minutes, she wrote down a series of names (in Russian and English) giving me and my wife a brief explanation of who each person was and what was happening in their lives. It was amazing to me how she remembered so many different family members names in both languages. When she asked how much it was to submit the intercession requests, we tried in vain to explain it was free. But she insisted we take $5 for the priest and told us, in no uncertain terms, to "light a candle for me and all of my family" at the Christmas vigil.

Her manner was at once both curt yet gentle. Her facial expressions were somewhat severe, but also humble. It was clear how much she missed her family and how lonely she was. As I listened to her stories about growing up in Warsaw as a child during the war and about her struggles with trying to be Orthodox in a non-Orthodox country, it struck me that we American converts, who think that after a 40 day fast with no meat or dairy that we somehow have reached the heights of "Orthodoxy," have a LOT to learn about what it means to suffer! The loneliness, the suffering of those who are separated from their family....realizing her strength and humility just blew me away...

As she was getting ready to leave, she turned back and gave each of us a hug, saying "Christ is Born!" and "Merry Christmas." With a wistful smile on her cheerful face, she slipped out the door.

Merry Christmas, Nadia.....

We will pray for you and your family this Christmas.....

:: Karl :: 2:55:00 PM [Link] ::

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