Saturday, December 12, 2015

Building a House upon a Rock

I was able to go to Great Vespers for the first time in a long time when Advent started in November. Our bishop was here, making his yearly visit to our parish, and my mom made it possible for me to be there to hear him speak and then attend Vespers at the end of the day.

As I stood there listening to the prayers, I was overcome with gladness. Joy welled up in my heart and brought tears to my eyes. The smell of the incense and the familiar words washed over me and filled my whole being with the understanding that THIS is what my life is all about: standing in the presence of God and worshiping Him is the only thing that I ever want to do for the rest of my life.

The smell of the incense wafting through the church brought back images of being in church as a child: dark Saturday nights in winter, bright Saturday nights in summer, the slowing down and quieting of the busyness of life in preparation for receiving Christ during the Divine Liturgy the next morning.

All these thoughts and feelings in my heart made very real to my something that I've known instinctively and read about extensively in my studying of education. Some call it poetic knowledge, some call it synthetic learning. I understand more than ever now how important it is for our family to be immersed in the life of the Church and living in the culture which exists there.

The experience, the whole body and mind understanding together what it means to live a Christian life can be had from infancy and throughout one's entire life. Dr. John Boojamra, in his book Foundations for Christian Education, says
First I do, then I learn about what I did! 
 As one ages and develops the experience takes on new layers and depth of meaning, ever growing, always enriching and transforming the willing and open heart. There is a time to learn about and to understand more analytically the ins and outs of our practices, the whys and wherefores of it all. But that understanding must build upon the initial gut-level understanding that happens when the experience precedes the teaching.

I was fortunate enough to be blessed with parents who gave me that experience of living first, and learning about it later. All those years of services impacted me at a level that is much deeper than intellect. It was my whole being which was affected, not just my mind. At the time it felt like the services were long and I can remember daydreaming quite a lot. My feet would be tired, I would wish I could be doing something else. But even with my mind wandering the physical presence of my body there, in the kingdom, did not leave me unaffected.

And so I am encouraged to give my children this same kind of foundation, upon which to build their lives in Christ. Liturgy on Sundays is a good start, to be sure, but there is more to do. I want them to experience to cycle of the fasts and the feasts. I want them to consider the extra services during Lent as essential to the fast and the weekday liturgies of the feasts as taking precedence over other obligations.

They are young and they sometimes do not want to go to church. But I know that this life founded in Christ is the one I ought to give them and no matter what happens as they grown older I trust that this foundation will be one of rock which will not crumble no matter how the storm rages.