Sunday, April 16, 2017

Agape Vespers

     I do not know what it is like at other parishes, but at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Saratoga after Agape Vespers we all retire to the hall and eat and drink enough to make up for all the lenten fasting.  There was champagne and tri-tip (because we are Californians) and whisky and lamb and beer and ham and cider and sausages and wine and cheeses and vodka in ice blocks (Every year people ask me how to make this.  It's super easy.  Here are instructions.) and meat laden soups from Greece, Russia, and Egypt, and much more besides.
     This year a young woman I had never seen sat down at the table with me and my fiancee and my son , Anselm Samuel.  It took all of 30 seconds to figure out that she was emotionally troubled.  It was her first time at an Orthodox church.  Any one with any life experience could tell she had been used by many men.  She kept going on and on about how she never knew church could be like this.         The whole parish showed her love.  Lisa brought her a plate of food.  Sami gave her a shot of whiskey and a big fatherly hug.  Kathleen was her instant friend.  Anselm poured her a shot of vodka from the ice block.   I made sure she had some paskha and kulich.  Someone else brought her strawberries.  Everyone greeted her with "Christ is risen".  I taught her to say "He is risen indeed".
    She kept referring to her past and I said, "We don't need to know about that but if you need to confess the priest is right there."
    She said with amazement, "He'll here my confession?!  Will he give me Hail Mary's to say or something?"
    I said, "No. But he will do what you need."
    She said, "Really?  I can become orthodox right now? "
    I  said, "You need to talk to Fr. Basil."
   She asked, "What do I say?"
   I showed her how to ask for a priest's blessing and said, "then you just talk".
   She got up and walked across the parish hall to the priest, asked for his blessing, and the next thing you know, they are both walking into the church.
   A little while later she came back to the table where we had moved on to amaretto (thank you Katrina) and I noticed tears on her cheeks.  I asked her, "Did he hear your confession?"
   "Yes, and he didn't make me do anything.  No Hail Marys or anything.  He just put that cloth on me and prayed over me.  I can't belive it.  I'm such a bad girl and he forgave me."
   I said, "Not any more.  You are no longer a bad girl."  And she started crying again.
   So, if anyone criticizes the Orthodox for our exuberant feasting, let them be ashamed.  The feasting at the Lord's table rescues the fallen, finds the lost, ransoms the captive, breaks every fetter, and calls sinners to repentance.  Christ is Risen!  Indeed he is Risen!


Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I had tears running down my cheeks as I read this. So very beautiful, and a true picture of faith in action.
God bless you **richly** for what you did for this lady, encouraging her to speak to your priest. She has reconciled herself with God and taken a huge step on the lifelong path to healing, faith and peace. I will keep her in my prayers, as I keep you and your loved ones.
Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed!!

GretchenJoanna said...

Glory to God! Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

Thank you for sharing this story - but thank you most for loving that woman. May your Paschal joy spill over to many more people.