Monday, August 8, 2016

Cloudy skies

Help! We’re still in the Theotokos Fast, starting today its second week, day eight. For many, this mid-summer Lent is a kind of speed bump in their drive for enjoyment of sunshine and good weather, and like any other speed bump, when they see it coming, they’d rather not slow down, but instead, accelerate, trusting in their state-of-the-art shock absorbers to carry them over in comfort.

Me, I am a lazy bones, just as lazy when it comes to seeking the pleasures of this world as I am when forcing myself to attend to my daily chores. Thank God! the fast means there’s less dishes to wash, and I can take my ease, because a fasting man can’t be expected to do much, whether work or play. The cloudy sky means I probably won’t have to water the vegetables in the garden today. Yay!

Explaining to me how much she likes to go out and have fun, faced by my stuck-in-the-mud attitude about not doing what she likes to do and thinking I should, she tells me I don’t try hard enough. I struggle not to object, I just listen to her, inwardly justifying myself, ‘She’s a Catholic, and a woman, both of which facts make her looser than me, I’m an Orthodox, and a man, and monkish too.’

That last part, about being monkish, I let slip through my teeth, and she hears it, and with a good-natured exasperation so much as tells me not to be so silly. Everyone has to have enjoyment. She worked very hard that day, and now feels she deserves to go to the opera, but she didn’t want to go alone and waste an extra ticket, so I consented to accompany her. The opera was a bust.

Me, if I were to choose to go to the opera, it must be something classic, something by Mozart, or Rossini, or Wagner, especially the last because his operas are so heroic and manly. I would prefer not to go to Madama Butterfly by Puccini, because it’s just too effeminate for me. What we went to see was by Rossini, An Italian Girl in Algiers, a comic opera, but updated to current standards of decadence.

The orchestra played beautifully, even the singing was excellent, but I could not put up with the silliness of it—I know it’s a comic opera and should be silly, but it was really over the top. Whatever Rossini wrote into the libretto to tantalise his original audiences, alluding to contemporary lewdness, the opera company of today augmented choreographically to catch up to our expectations, theirs anyway.

At half time, I didn’t have to suggest leaving, as I’d seen and heard more than enough. All the while it was going on, I had to struggle between falling asleep for boredom and feeling that I was being impious and offending the Theotokos, because it is, after all, a fast time, when concerts and dances and parties should be avoided. My excuse to myself was, I was saying ‘Yes’ to a friend’s request.

‘I always say yes,’ I kept telling myself, as long as the request isn’t something against the law of God, because I must leave the door open for Him to work, on me, or on the person who asks me, or both. If I say ‘Yes,’ and it’s not God’s will, He’ll deliver me from the situation. And of course, that’s exactly what He did. It was my friend who asked, ‘Do you mind if we leave now? I’ve had enough.’ Again, I said, ‘Yes.’

I can’t tell yet, what exactly the Lord showed me by this incident, this visit to the opera, or what He showed my friend. Of course, she doesn’t have the same understanding as I do about many things. Though the Orthodox and the Catholic faiths share many, if not most, doctrines and dogmas, it is very much in attitudes that they differ, sometimes irreconcilably and so, we must ‘live, and let live.’

Thank you, Lord, for delivering me from yet another of my failings and weaknesses. May I not immediately fall into another. Is there ever a time when laziness can be a virtue? for I am a very lazy man. I seek the easy way, the way that seems natural. I go easy on myself, now that I am old, not like when I was young when I wore myself out with fasting. But I also go easy on my neighbor.

I am glad it’s cool and overcast. The clouds may not yield rain, though rain is always welcome to me. I am a rainy day person. I like the rain, and I like to go out in it. When it’s sunny, I feel guilty for not being out and working under the sun, doing something productive. When it rains, I can rest and reflect. This attitude goes back to my childhood. In sun, we must go out and play sports. In rain, we stay indoors.

And I was never really good at sports. I wanted to read, to do experiments with my chemistry set, or study specimens under my microscope. With my building sets I built houses, bridges, Egyptian pyramids, or I played with my electric trains. Yes, I was lazy then, too, as a child. I think that we’re always what we were, at least, I’m always what I was. Can God be pleased with one who only sits and swings his legs?

It’s the eighth day, my day, the day of the month I came into this world, the day my wife departed from it only one month ago. Intoning the psalms appointed for the eight day, I read, ‘As a doe longs for running streams so longs my soul for You, my God. My soul thirsts for God, the God of life; when shall I go to see the face of God?’ and I read there the history of both our lives, maybe both our deaths.

For God has it all written down, everything, everything about us is written down in that small Book, to which we turn when in trouble or in thanksgiving, when weary and overburdened, or when the call of Christ falls on our otherwise deaf ears. He calls. His word opens our ears, that by hearing faith comes. Then we see Him standing in our midst, and we blinded by the glory of this world receive our sight.

‘Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a Light to enlighten the gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel,’ this lazy, old man recites from memory, rejoicing in the salvation of Christ God, who delivers His people, ransoms them, us, even me, so that we have nothing to pay. Glory to Thee, O God, glory to Thee!


Sam, (aka, MBF) said...

....your words continue to challenge and console.
That we both wrote on the Theme of Speaking the Word out loud on Dec 20th 2008, brought me here today. So glad our paths crossed on the cross dear brother. -togetheroneservant

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Nice to hear from you again, brother. You have not gotten lost to me in the flow of time. Some people's touch never wears off or goes away. You're one of those.