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Thursday, July 13, 2006

What Heaven Looks Like!

The more accurate title would be "What Heaven on Earth Looks Like". I don't know a better way to illustrate the title than to share with you this picture of my granddaughter, Lily. Why the reference to heaven? The obvious reference is the state of angelic ecstasy any of us feel when we look upon or embrace a child that we love, be it as parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. I have found the Kingdom of God becoming more tangible to me as I watch such innocent heavenly beings participate in the Orthodox Liturgy week after week. I watch with a heart of worship as parents or grandparents carry a child or lead them by the hand to light a candle and pray, or as the child is lifted up so they can kiss and venerate the icon of Mary or of Christ. The power of Heaven is most displayed and the Kingdom of God is closest it seems, when a three year old boy pauses before the the altar and bows as he crosses himself or a little hand reaches out to touch the hem of the priest's garment as he passes or a beautiful little girl opens her mouth and willingly receives the body and blood of our Lord in the Eucharist. Some parents of young children, who are making the Journey to Orthodoxy, are surprised or even disappointed that the Orthodox Church for the most part do not have nurseries for all ages during the Liturgy. The Protestant ethos has taught them a culture of segregation or separation. These parents have become accustomed to dropping the kids off in their nursery or Sunday school class and leaving them in someone else's care during the church service. The ethos of the Orthodox faith is one of community and family. The Liturgy is vital for everyone. Entire families, young and old, are present most of the time sitting together as a unit. I have watched with amazement the blending of the reverence and holiness of the Liturgy amidst the occasional noise from a baby or the typical toddler's banter followed by a mother's "shhh." In an Orthodox Liturgy this is all normal. The family is together as is the whole family of God in that Liturgical service of worship, all around the thrown of God with the saints of all the ages. That's What Heaven on Earth Looks Like because that's What Heaven Looks Like. My wife Cynthia and I understand the stress of caring for young children, having had five of our own. We understand the need for time to ourselves. We too, were also accustomed to the "break" that the one or two hours in church without the kids gave us to recharge our own spiritual batteries. It can be a challenge to adjust to the Orthodox way of inclusion, but think about it. We are converts to the faith. Because we include our children and not seclude them, they will grow up in the faith. They will be "Cradle Orthodox" and so will your grandchildren. Please pardon me if I envy you this time in your life. I wish we had found the one true faith when our children were young. Oh, for the opportunity you have! As distracted and stressed out you might be at times during the Liturgy, your children will grow. They will settle in. They will take on the true spirit of worship and so will you, for what better worship can you offer to the Holy Trinity than to present your children to Him week after week? Don't let the challenge of transitioning to being an Orthodox Parent keep you from the Church and the eternal benefits that await you and your entire family.

1 comment:

  1. Cynthia1:11 PM

    "Trampling down death by death"
    Sunday morning, a young mother was telling me of a conversation she overheard her daughter having with her dolls the week before. Her newly baptized three year old was explaining the Faith to her doll. "First Jesus got died. And then he didn't get died anymore!"
    Amen!

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