Despite the title, this post is not directly, or at least not yet about the Mystery of Holy Communion. Instead it begins first with the mystery of communion that can only take place when other persons are about. For yet the third time in my family’s life, a child is soon to marry, though this time it is a manchild (to use the Biblical expression). On Sunday week my son will marry what can only be called a “childhood” sweetheart, particularly since they both seem like children to me still.
Our first child was married in 2003. Her wedding, by request, was celebrated by Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas. It took place at the large Greek Orthodox Church in nearby Knoxville. You might have to be a priest, or perhaps the wife of a priest, to appreciate that the wedding of your first daughter coinciding with the visit of an Archbishop (which included 2 ordinations on that Sunday morning) is not the stuff that makes for a perfectly calm day. Indeed the visit of an Archbishop can of itself bring jitters (even when the Archbishop is as delightful and warm as Vladyka). The service included my daughter’s college priest, the priest from the Greek Church, myself, a protodeacon, and, it seemed, a host of others. I recall the day was so full that it was not until bedtime that I sat with my older brother and drank a toast to my newlywed daughter (who is now Matushka Mary and lives in California).
My second daughter’s wedding, though absent the Archbishop, nevertheless included the priest who was the father of the groom (Antiochian) and the Greek Orthodox priest from their college who had shepherded them through OCF. It filled our little Church and overfilled our parish hall, spilling out into the yard where the toasts flowed and even included my 80 year-old mother dancing the “Dubke” with others (an Arab dance). The sight of her joy was a wonderful summation of the day (it was, like today, July 4). The daughter is now Khouria Kathryn and lives in Louisiana.
My son’s wedding (which will take place in S.C.) will be presided by my son-in-law’s (Antiochian) Father, in my daughter-in-law to-be’s home parish. There will be other priests in attendance, I expect. This is a young couple who met as young teens on Church retreats and Orthodox summer camps and has been carefully watched by any number of priests and counselors. This year simply surprises us all that the day they have always (it seems) discussed has come at last.
But the communion? The communion began this week with the arrival of my second daughter – who has her own magic – one that makes everyone in the house seem twice as present – probably because all of us are the joyful recipients of her own joy. The relatively solemn work of moving towards a wedding has been transformed in the last few days and I can feel the excitement in the household. It lifts my heart from brooding over my only son moving out from my roof.
Of course, all of this will only crescendo with the arrival of the two daughters who are away (the youngest in Governor’s School this summer, the other flying in from California). All of them can beam or stand in astonishment that their little brother (or big brother in one case) is entering the terribly adult realm of marriage.
But the communion? The communion comes in the wonderful interaction that only people who care for one another can give. We were created for such communion – for the joys of others to be the joys of our own. We were created to lift up our hearts at the sound of their voice and to rejoice when they rejoice – even as we weep when they weep.
Three years ago (as the story goes) when my second daughter was to be married, she pounced gleefully on her younger sister’s bed (a quiet sleepy bed it was, too) first thing in the morning with the greeting, “I’m getting married today!” And no one could resist the invitation to joy.
This is some small piece of heaven (at least in my home). And my meditation this week has been that my own joy only multiplies (it’s far to fast to say it grows) with each additional participant in the joy. The communion of joy is the Lord’s Cup of Rejoicing. He would serve it to us many more times than we are willing to partake.
And so I bring us around to the Lord’s Cup – the great communion of which every other marriage feast can be but a shadow. The bride (who is ourselves) should wake everyone on every occasion in which that marriage is celebrated, rejoicing, “I’m getting married today!” We phrase it a little differently:
Come, let us worship and fall down before Christ, who rose from the dead. Save us, who sing to Thee, Alleluia!
Thank you for letting me share a family joy – though it be but a shadow.
The photo is from our first family wedding, that of my daughter Mary and her husband, now Fr. Hermogen Holste.
Many years to the new couple! Isn’t that our fulfillment as parents to see our children happily married to begin their newly partnered lives in the church…
Thank you for sharing the joy and may I also say, Mazel tov!
“It lifts my heart from brooding over my only son moving out from my roof.” BTDT, and the joy is so bittersweet — I mean, this is why we have kids, to raise them in a Godly way and take over ownership of their own lives, following the paths we ourselves have trod before them, and our parents before us. But still. You’re happy — but it hurts. You hurt — but it’s a joyful hurt.
We have two grandsons now, also a joyful hurt, since all I can think of is their mother at that age…
God grant them all Many Years !
As a very grateful participant in Orthodox communion, I am aware that while the means of approaching the cup remains the same from week to week–repenting, fasting, etc.–my experience within those means is distinctly different from week to week. In the same vein, perhaps the brooding (or could we say ‘mourning’?) of your heart, mentioned in this post, could be seen as your unique experience of the prescribed ascesis for this particular communion. Perhaps your current “struggle for communion”, so poignantly described in your last two postings, is preparation for the “wonder of communion” still before you in your son’s marriage. Perhaps this struggle is the latest form of your hunger–from your last post–a hunger perceived as being “not the fulfillment but part of it”. A hunger that in fact serves as “invitiation to joy”.
Furthermore, in chewing upon your scriptural reference about the “violent taking [the kingdom of heaven] by force” (from your last post), it seems that your current struggle enters here as well. In my mind’s eye, ascesis goes hand in hand with kenosis (of which I know precious little other than its basis as self-emptying). If “violence” could be seen as kenosis achieved through the “force” of ascesis, then you, Father Stephen, are battling well on behalf of your only son “entering the terribly adult world of marriage”. May God keep joy before you as the means of enduring this particular cross.
It’s like re-reading myself. Thanks for the insights. I guess it is a reminder that for us all, when we’re in the middle of things the hardest thing to see is where you are.
Many, many years to them all, particularly your son and his soon-to-be-bride.
And I can sense the joy and love all the way from Australia, Father. Thank you for sharing.
A shadow to which we cling in hope.
God grant them many years!
Many years to all the couples!
We are still in our honeymoon glow, too, about 6 1/2 months after our wedding. I recently had a wedding-planning nightmare, where I dreamt I woke up the morning of the wedding and realized I had forgotten to arrange a caterer. Before the panic (so palpable that I woke up from it), I had that “I’m getting married today” joy in my dream- a wonderful feeling I’ll always remember. Still, I was glad when I started awake, got my druthers and realized “hurrah, I’m already married!!” 🙂
Someday I should do a post where we could share our school anxiety dreams. At age 53, I still have them occasionally. Then…there are anxiety dreams peculiar to priests. I have a psychologist friend who said that protestant pastors have anxiety dreams where they cannot find their place in a sermon and pastors of liturgical churches always have liturgy-related dreams. I’ve never had a wedding related dream, strangely enough, though I did not sleep a wink the night before my wedding.
Many years to you for 61/2 months! May the years go by only a day at a time. After 33, you blink, and your kids are married! Thanks!
“The communion comes in the wonderful interaction that only people who care for one another can give. We were created for such communion – for the joys of others to be the joys of our own.”
We are experiencing this presently in our home with the arrival (birth, in our case) of our second daughter three days ago. Family bringing over meals, second-time grandmothers offering greatly-needed pairs of hands, spontaneous explosions of holy noise around the dinner table and our elder daughter squeaking with delight while she caresses and kisses her baby sister…this is life as communion.
Congratulations to you and yours, Father. May God grant you many years in the midst of all that joyful noise.
May God multiply the joy of your communion! May you drink it to its last most sweet drop!
In all truth, Father, this post has brought tears to my eyes- and homesickness. It is a joy to know that my older sister is at home, being herself. I wish I could be there and can only try and express my excitement and happiness for the married couple-to-be.
Don’t be too homesick. We’re very proud of what you’re doing. Our joy will be complete when you and Mary join us Aiken, and when we’re able then to have you home the rest of the summer – more an artist than we sent away. I feel that everything is coming together very well. I’ll add your tears into the joy (and tears) here, as God prepares his Cup of wonderment for us all. Be filled with joy!
Ah, me! I am weeping too! I love Kathryn’s exuberance and Clare’s sweetness and your thoughtfulness and ohmigoodness what happened to that little Jamie I recall? see you Sunday!