|Touring St. Vladamir Seminary campus with Victoria, Edmund, and Alex.|
Little legs move amongst the people. Small chubby arms flap, bright-eyed faces upturn. Young attentions flit between activity at the front of the room, candles alight on stands, other children, and the chandelier hanging above all.
Last Tuesday night I flew into LaGuardia airport, city lights an array of beauty below. I don't tend to be impressed by cities, but far above the never-sleeping one (from a window seat) I could ponder this aspect of color and patterns with delight. At last I was arriving.
As we reacquainted ourselves, Edmund began sharing from his trove of enjoyables a game he learned when his other grandparents visited. It's meant, I think, to be "Ready, set, go!" which either party can say to start the other one moving quickly about the room. Ed's version sounds more like, "Ho key, gooooo!" When he says this, I zip away. He delights in my stopping so he can start me again.
Sunday morning, the church service (known as the Divine Liturgy) begins at 9:00 in the Three Hierarchs Chapel. Seminarians and their families attend. I have already walked past the building with Victoria, Alex, and Edmund when they gave me the campus tour, and I couldn't wait to be inside. Now, though, I'm left with my grandson, while Alex goes somewhere else in the church and Victoria joins the choir. This doesn't work. Edmund is distressed without Daddy; I'm awkward in front of people I don't know. So I gather Ed and whoosh out the door before both of us begin wailing. Ho key, gooooo...
Soon Alex returns and all becomes right with the world. The little guy's arms encircle his father's neck. From behind them I view Edmund's closed eyes, his blissful radiance. For my part the Liturgy is now familiar enough that, even in a different congregation with varying translations of the ancient Greek, I recognize what is happening.
I sense a temptation to feel satisfied standing here--in a ha-I-know-the-Orthodox-moves sort of fashion. But a role-playing satisfaction is the opposite of what I'm here for (it would embody true hypocrisy). If I ever take on such a thing, I'll soon weary in the toil of self-indulgent conformity. Christianity itself will become for me a shiny sticker on some chart tacked on the wall, to eventually yellow and curl. I know. I've done it before.
Alex sets Edmund down near me and my skirt's shadow in the block of sunlight. After wandering a bit, checking out other children, and squinting at the high chandelier, Ed lies on his back beside Daddy. Spreading his arms, he sweeps them and moves his legs, unconsciously making a floor angel.
I smile at my grandson. Inside I am measuring the sum of my experience against this moment, this way, this Being. I turn my gaze and wander and squint at the lighting far above.