blob of wax

Under the nave's skylight I stand. I am dressed in white, except for the deeply red cross stitched to the back of my robe. My hair tumbles below a tasseled white scarf. No one else is here except Paisios, the bearded young man who usually assists during services. He is over in the choir corner, setting out books, several of them, open to pages, open to psalms, to liturgy in portions.

I step toward him and whisper, "Shall I light some candles?"

"Sure," he says. "Thanks. I'll go ring the bell."

It's noon. Sixth hour, so they called it who-knows-when. I lift a thin taper and touch its wick to one of those Paisios was lighting as I arrived. I've found these things hiss a little if you brush wick on wick. They snuff each other out on occasion. Mostly, they cooperate. Even quite young children light them, their mothers or aunts or the priest's wife standing, watching close. The small ones are more confident than I. But today they're at home or in school. So I pass the flame.

Outside, the bell rings. Six peals. Next door is a rehab group. Down the street, a health food market, a cafe, a couple taverns.

Paisios comes back in and begins chanting. I stand.

In front of me, beyond candles burning and icons of Jesus on one side, St. John the Wonderworker on the other, there are icons of Jesus, Mary, St. John the Forerunner (John the Baptist), St. John the W. again, and still more St. Somebodies.

I was put off by this Sainting. We're all saints, the New Testament says so. Yet. Study of the NT shows plainly we, none of us, know another's heart. Even my own, especially, I am reminded is a mystery.

Paisios and I were talking about this one Sunday in the narthex. Tim stood by, his gaze on light fixtures needing new ballasts above. I told Paisios I've gathered from an Orthodoxy class that Saints weren't the sorts of folks to call themselves anything but saints. If that. Regular. Not somebodies.

"Exactly," Paisios said. "That's the cool thing. None of them would say they deserved sainthood."

How paradoxical.

My robe began so white after baptism last month. Now it has grayed at the sleeves, along the hem. Tim and I are wearing ours to services for 40 days. The point is not to wash them. Purity the goal, the striving. Yet this existence grays the edges; spots appear in the center. We're paying attention.

I recall that, according to Kierkegaard, purity of heart means to will one thing. To focus.

Every day blurs me.

There is a blob on my robe above the knee, from a dripping candle. It doesn't look dirty, just flat and round and unmoving. Like a scar on my flesh. A permanent feature. A wish to be made new, this waxen seal.

Comments

Deanna,

I'm sure you haven't embarked upon this new journey as a sneaky way to polish your fine writing. However. Nonetheless. This piece has a pace, depth and command of language that takes my breath away.

I'll be thinking about waxen seals, purity of heart and especially the sometimes unintended interactions of wicks upon each other all day.

Beth
Deanna said…
Thank you, Beth. It's funny how fully I discounted the possibility of this particular journey, until one day it seemed to appear from left field, like the creative solution after being stuck with an essay. I never guessed I would do this.
jodi said…
Your writing truly is beautiful, and a gift. It operates on so many layers it makes me feel clunky, lol. :) Love your posts.
Deanna said…
Jodi, hey. Thanks.