Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Handing on the Faith

These days of Christmas have been marked by a sense of gratitude in my own life for the awareness of the presence of God in my life, which I have not merited but indeed received from home. Thanks to my home environment and up-bring, the Lord is ever present in my life. The notion of the Year of Faith and how that all works, in terms of that awareness of God's presence active and powerful in our world and in our lives, has been very much at the core of my thoughts these days.

What can I say that will make it easier for parents especially to hand on to their children what was handed on to me so naturally by my own parents? The Year of Faith is an occasion to stir up the flame of faith in the lives of us grown-ups, it is a call to invite others back to Christ or to announce Him to them for the very first time, but above all I see this Year of Faith as an awareness arouser for parents in terms, yes of duty, but better, of the privilege which is theirs to hand on the pearl of great price to those whom they love the most, their children. God made me; He made me to know, love and serve Him in this life, so as to be oh so happy with Him in the next and for all eternity.

Yesterday was New Years in the Julian calendar and the feast of St. Basil the Great, the patronal feast of the Basilian Fathers who staff my Greek Catholic Parish here in Kyiv, dedicated to St. Basil the Great. For the second year running I could be there for the feast day liturgy and the parish feast which followed. One of the peculiar things about St. Basil the Great as a new church building is that other than the essential icons, the iconostasis of metal and stone is quite open and so from the presbyterium, when sitting in the apse for the homily or for thanksgiving after Communion while the people are receiving, one can see much more of what is happening in the nave of the church.

After a year and nearly four months here in Ukraine, I am beginning to pick up some of what is being said, so some of what Father Provincial was reading at homily time in the letter of His Beatitude the Major Archbishop to all of the Greek Catholic faithful for the Year of Faith was actually understandable to me. Nonetheless, I asked myself how different my situation was from a little girl out there on the other side of the iconostasis, sitting quietly and listening on her grandmother's lap. We were probably understanding about the same, she for her tender age and I for my ignorance of the Ukrainian language. No doubt with the love of family surrounding her she too, like me at that age, would be positively disposed to loving the Lord back Who has loved and chosen her for Himself. I wished for her the same gifts I received so long ago: help to make the Sign of the Cross and somebody at home, again and again, just with me alone, to accompany me through all my basic prayers until I could pray them on my own, just like learning to walk, surrounded by the attention, encouragement and reinforcement of those who loved me and thanks be to God gave me life.

If I work hard at my Ukrainian, maybe next year for Old Calendar New Year I'll actually understand the homily. As an adult, in no uncertain terms, coming to understanding is up to me. At some point that little girl will be on her own in terms of faith, but for now as servants of Christ her parents and extended family, her parish too, will carry her, please God. May she enjoy and in proportion to her age and ability enjoy immersion in the sea of God's love!

We had a visit today from a group of traditional carolers from a Carpathian mountain village come singing and playing for us today. Just before their farewell carol, they asked permission to sing their prayer for those who had died, just as they do at home going from house to house. Some in the group were men and some were boys. I couldn't help notice that one of the boys did not know the words to the Our Father. It happens. Maybe by the end of the caroling the repetition will perfect what was neglected in infancy and childhood. It is never too late to inform good will and give content in words to the longing of our hearts. Please God that the Year of Faith will be a school of prayer leading all to the knowledge of God and granting us hearing and speech to perceive and thank Him for His presence and power in the world, our world!

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